BitTorrent is known for the file-sharing software that it has been developing but in the past years, they are trying to offer new services for their users. We’ve seen BitTorrent launch BitTorrent Live for creating your own online TV shows and streams. Besides that, they have also launched BitTorrent Plus and BitTorrent Sync. Now, they have announced that they are working on a “secure, server-less messaging” service, called BitTorrent Chat.
BitTorrent Chat comes with the purpose of bringing more security to our online communications, so that it wouldn’t be so easy to intercept them, neither by governments or criminals. BitTorrent estimates that in 2013, which hasn’t even ended, more than six million people have been affected by data breaches. And we all know that the NSA is really curious about your messaging activity. As the BitTorrent Chat service is still in private alpha, this means you’ll have to request an email invite to see how the program works.
The service uses an encrypted peer-to-peer network, without central control, storage or forwarding servers. The groundwork for BitTorrent Chat seems to be similar to Alec Perkins’ work with he BitTorrent Sync protocol, but it seems that BitTorrent’s own team will be working on the upcoming BitTorrent Chat service.
The BitTorrent Chat will work like this, as Richard Chirgwin with TheRegister explains it:
Each user (contact, or message channel) has a folder containing inbox and outbox. Users provide each other with read-only keys providing access to their in- and out-boxes (note that a different key is used for each). The recipient of a message can only read the message in the sender’s outbox: they can’t change the message. All messages are encrypted with AES 256 with secrets greater than 20 bytes
Our online security becomes more important as the time passes and we see new privacy scandals. That’s why I think a tool like BitTorrent Chat has a good future. This service will never store your messages in the cloud as there won’t be any servers involved. The BitTorrent Chat service is currently available for Linux, Windows and Mac OS, but most likely mobile apps will also make their appearance, since that represents the core market these days.
But BitTorrent isn’t the single company to come up with a secure messaging client. If you recall, back in July, The Pirate Bay’s co-founder Peter Sunde said he was also looking into building a mobile messaging app with end-to-end encryption to keep conversations safe. After all, these are two companies that are involved with torrents, where such matters as online privacy are taken very seriously.
BitTorrent’s upcoming chat service might be the perfect tool to protect your privacy, but there’s no definite answer if it could be bulletproof to NSA. Communications chief at BitTorrent, Christian Averill said the following when asked about BitTorrent’s response to a potential data request or access to backdoor (if there would be one) from the NSA:
We’re not familiar with specifics of NSA programs, so it’s not something we can really comment on. We are focused on creating something durable that does not rely on the cloud, that respects user privacy and that has real consumer benefits
What do you think? Is this tool going to help us protect our online privacy or government agencies will always find a way?