Following in the footsteps of its major competitor WhatsApp, messaging app Viber announced today that it is also providing end-to-end encryption for its users. The encryption will apply to one-to-one conversations, group messages, and cross-platform messages.
Users don’t have to do anything to encrypt their messages besides updating to the latest version of Viber. The change will roll out automatically over the next two weeks, the company said.
“Today we’re excited to announce that our users will be able to securely communicate across all of their devices through end-to-end encryption,” Michael Shmilov, Viber’s COO, wrote in a blog post today. “We have been working on this for a long time and are proud that our users can confidently use Viber without fear of their messages being intercepted -- whether it is in a one-to-one or group message, on a call, on desktop, mobile or tablet.”
Individual Cryptography Keys
Viber’s announcement comes only two weeks after WhatsApp’s decision to begin providing users with end-to-end encryption. Today’s development may not be quite as significant as that one: WhatsApp boasts around 1 billion users, while Viber has about 700 million worldwide. Nevertheless, the decisions by both companies affect a wide swath of the world’s direct messages, and are sure to give the National Security Agency and other espionage groups fits.
Viber users will receive a notification informing them that their conversations have been encrypted, and can confirm their encryption status by looking for a gray padlock on the app. Viber is also providing each user with an individual cryptography key associated with that individual's device as an extra layer of security.
The individual cryptography key will allow a user to manually authenticate contacts as “trusted,” which will change the lock color to green. If the color of the lock ever changes to red, it means that there is a problem with the authentication key. That might be because the user changed his device, or it could indicate a man-in-the-middle-attack. A user will have to be re-verified to confirm the new authentication keys.
But end-to-end encryption isn’t the only privacy feature Viber announced today. The company has also launched Hidden Chats, a security feature that lets users hide specific chats on the main screens of their devices. The hidden chats are invisible to everyone except the users who hide them, granting an extra level of privacy for users who might share one device with family members or coworkers.
In addition, Viber is expanding into other types of services, such as enterprise offerings. The company’s new business tools will allow enterprises to use the app to communicate with customers as part of a broader CRM (customer relationship management) strategy. Companies will also be able to run bots on the service.
The new security features are also likely an attempt to appeal to enterprise clients. We spoke to Avivah Litan, a security analyst at Gartner Inc., following the WhatsApp announcement. She told us that security issues are becoming increasingly important to enterprises.
“Corporate clients are definitely concerned about backdoors,” Litan said, adding that enterprises are becoming more aware that they may become targets of state actors. “They don’t want the U.S .or any other government spying on their employees."
Image Credit: Screenshots of phones showing end-to-end encryption, pictured above, via Viber blog.