Signal: The Snowden-Approved Crypto App Comes to Android

Since it appeared in Apple’s App Store last year, the free encrypted calling and texting app Signal has become the darling of the privacy community, recommended, and apparently used daily, by no less than Edward Snowden himself. Now its creator is bringing that same form of ultra-simple smartphone encryption to Android. 

Recently the privacy-focused non-profit software group Open Whisper Systems announced the release of Signal for Android, the first version of its combined calling and texting encryption app to hit Google’s Play store. It’s not actually the first time Open Whisper Systems has enabled those features on Android phones; Open Whisper Systems launched an encrypted voice app called Redphone and an encrypted texting program called TextSecure for Android back in 2010. 

But now the two have been combined into a Signal’s single, simple app, just as they are on the iPhone. “Mostly this was just about complexity. It’s easier to get people to install one app than two,” says Moxie Marlinspike, Open Whisper Systems’ founder. “We’re taking some existing things and merging them together to make the experience a little nicer.”

That streamlining of Redphone and TextSecure into a single app, in other words, doesn’t actually make Open Whisper System’s encryption tools available to anyone who couldn’t already access them. But it does represent a milestone in those privacy programs’ idiot-proof interface, which in Signal is just as straightforward as normal calling and texting. As Marlinspike noted when he spoke to WIRED about Signal’s initial release last year, that usability is just as important to him as the strength of Signal’s privacy protections. “In many ways the crypto is the easy part,” Marlinspike said at the time. “The hard part is developing a product that people are actually going to use and want to use. That’s where most of our effort goes.”

Open Whisper Systems’ encryption tools already have a wide footprint: According to Google Play’s stats, TextSecure had been downloaded to at least a million Android phones, all of which will now receive the Signal app in a coming update. Since 2013, Textsecure has also been was also integrated by default in the popular CyanogenMod version of Android. And last year Whatsapp gave it an enormous boost by integrating it by default into its Android app for Android-to-Android communications—a move that put Open Whisper Systems’ code on at least a half-billion Android users’ devices.

The security of those apps has been widely applauded by cryptographers who have audited them: As Johns Hopkin professor Matthew Green wrote in a 2013 blog post, “After reading Moxie’s RedPhone code the first time, I literally discovered a line of drool running down my face. It’s really nice.”

Open Whisper Systems, which is funded by a combination of personal donations and grants from groups like the US government’s Open Technology Fund, likely doesn’t enjoy the same popularity among law enforcement agencies. FBI director James Comey has repeatedly warned Congress over the last year of the dangers of consumer encryption programs, and British Prime Minister David Cameron even threatened to ban Whatsapp this summer based on its use of TextSecure.

All of that enmity has only bolstered Signal’s reputation within the privacy community—an affection that’s now been extended to its new Android app, too. “Every time someone downloads Signal and makes their first encrypted call, FBI Director Jim Comey cries,” wrote ACLU lead technologist Chris Soghoian on Twitter. “True fact.”

Wired:

« ISIS' 'Cyber Caliphate' Hacks 50,000+ Twitter Accounts
Tackling Crime On The Dark Web »

CyberSecurity Jobsite
Perimeter 81

Directory of Suppliers

Perimeter 81 / How to Select the Right ZTNA Solution

Perimeter 81 / How to Select the Right ZTNA Solution

Gartner insights into How to Select the Right ZTNA offering. Download this FREE report for a limited time only.

BackupVault

BackupVault

BackupVault is a leading provider of completely automatic, fully encrypted online, cloud backup.

Practice Labs

Practice Labs

Practice Labs is an IT competency hub, where live-lab environments give access to real equipment for hands-on practice of essential cybersecurity skills.

DigitalStakeout

DigitalStakeout

DigitalStakeout enables cyber security professionals to reduce cyber risk to their organization with proactive security solutions, providing immediate improvement in security posture and ROI.

CYRIN

CYRIN

CYRIN® Cyber Range. Real Tools, Real Attacks, Real Scenarios. See why leading educational institutions and companies in the U.S. have begun to adopt the CYRIN® system.

Capita

Capita

Capita is a consulting, digital services and software business, providing end-to-end enterprise IT services and solutions focused around digital transformation and innovation.

KELA

KELA

KELA's powerful cybercrime intelligence platform uncovers and neutralizes the most relevant cybersecurity threats coming from the hardest-to-reach places on the internet.

CommuniTake

CommuniTake

CommuniTake builds security, enablement, and management solutions to provide people and organizations with better, and more secure mobile device use.

MadSec Security

MadSec Security

MadSec Security is a leading consulting company whose expertise are information and cyber security.

Pindrop Security

Pindrop Security

Pindrop solutions are leading the way to the future of voice by establishing the standard for security, identity, and trust for every voice interaction.

Aujas

Aujas

Aujas helps organizations manage information security risks by protecting data, software, people and identities in alignment with best practices and compliance requirements.

XTN Cognitive Security

XTN Cognitive Security

XTN is focused on the development of security, Fraud and Mobile Threat Prevention advanced behaviour-based solutions.

Styra

Styra

Styra allows companies to secure cloud environments and applications, including those built on the popular Kubernetes open-source cloud platform.

Tehtris

Tehtris

TEHTRIS XDR Platform was developed to control and improve the IT security of private and public companies against advanced cyber threats such as cyber espionage or cyber sabotage activities.

DarkOwl

DarkOwl

DarkOwl provides the world’s largest index of darknet content and the tools to efficiently find leaked or otherwise compromised sensitive data.

CyberCube

CyberCube

CyberCube provide world-leading cyber risk analytics for the cyber insurance market.

Quantum Armor

Quantum Armor

Quantum Armor is a next-gen cyber security monitoring platform that allows you to continuously stay aware of your security posture, and proactively spot trends, vulnerabilities and potential attacks.

Wiz

Wiz

Wiz - the first cloud visibility solution for enterprise security: A 360° view of security risks across clouds, containers and workloads.

Toothpic

Toothpic

ToothPic has invented, designed, developed and patented a solution to enable companies to turn every smartphone into a secure key for a user-friendly online authentication.

Alcon Maddox

Alcon Maddox

Alcon Maddox is a niche recruitment and executive search firm specialised in sourcing exceptional Cyber Security sales and commercial leadership talent. Serving clients across the Middle East & Europe

Ostra Cybersecurity

Ostra Cybersecurity

As a next-generation MSSP, Ostra Cybersecurity combines best-in-class tools, proprietary technology and exceptional talent to deliver Fortune 100-level protection for businesses of all sizes.