How can I create an encrypted messenger

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This is Wire

Messenger Wire's claim: Just as stylish as WhatsApp, but at the same time as private as Signal. The messenger is available for the mobile operating systems Android and iOS. There is also a web version, which is practical for use on the computer. The web version is hidden on the Wire homepage under the menu item "Login". There is no need to purchase the paid desktop client.

Wire is programmed in Berlin, the operator is Wire Swiss GmbH, based in Switzerland. In 2019, the company relocated the headquarters of its parent company, Wire Group Holdings Inc., from Luxembourg to the USA. As for the background, Wire said in a blog article that the company could get funding more easily this way.

Wire has been around since 2014, two of the three founders are part of the founding team of the video chat Skype. The money for the development comes from venture capitalists. An extended, paid version has been available for teams and companies since October 2017, through which Wire is financed.

According to the company, the free app has been downloaded around five million times (as of August 2018).

Video conferencing only in the Pro version

Wire encrypts chats, telephony and video telephony end-to-end by default. However, for some time now, the company has mainly taken care of the paid version - the free version suffers noticeably.

In our tests in March 2020, video telephony in groups was hardly functional. Audio conferences continue to run smoothly, as does video chats for two.

Video conferences with up to four people are possible in the pro version for teams and worked perfectly in our test. After a 30-day test phase, you pay four euros per person per month (with two-year billing). For large companies, Wire has a larger package on offer.

Since 2018 it has also been possible to add participants to discussions and video chats via a web link who do not have the Wire app installed themselves. This also only worked in the pro version for teams in the test in March 2020.

Here are our recommendations for the best video services for the home office.

Privacy and security

The program code of the Wire app is accessible to everyone (open source). Wire has also had its products tested twice by independent experts from Kudelski Security and X41 D-Sec. The results of both security audits were positive.

During setup, Wire asks whether the address book should be synchronized in order to find contacts with Wire accounts. If you agree, these will be anonymized (hashed) loaded onto the wire server and compared there. Wire assures not to link this data in order to reconstruct relationship networks, for example.

Contacts can also be searched for and added manually using the user name or the Wire user ID (@name). No telephone number is required for use. Instead, you can register with an email address.

Wire uses Google Play services by default - like most other messengers. Contrary to what is common in some places, there is currently no version of Wire that does not contain elements from Google. Wire also includes the Adjust analysis service.

However, the app has a "fallback mechanism". That means, if it's running on a device that doesn't have Google services, it'll work anyway.

For this reason, it is not available in the F-Droid store, which only allows apps that do not contain any proprietary elements. You can download the app as an .apk file from the Wire website.

Wire only collects a small amount of metadata and stores the encrypted chats on its own servers for a maximum of 30 days. Log data of calls, i.e. who is on the phone with whom and when, is not recorded.

However, the messenger stated to the online magazine Golem that it kept a database with user information in plain text. This is necessary so that users can call up chats on different devices.

Backup at Wire

If you want to save your chat history or move to a new device, you have to create a backup manually. Wire expressly advises that the backup file is not protected with end-to-end encryption and should therefore be stored in a safe place. With iOS devices, the backup file is then at least encrypted with a password that you set yourself.

With Android, the backup file is not encrypted at all, as Wire confirmed when asked. You can restore a backup in your user account by logging out and then logging in again. Instructions can be found here.

The function can be found under

Wire: pros and cons

Positive:
  • Standard end-to-end encryption for chats, group chats, video and audio telephony
  • Desktop version
  • Can be used without a telephone number
  • Does not require access to contacts
  • Can be used without a Google account
  • Auto-destroy timer for messages and subsequent deletion
  • Encrypted local backup (iOS only)
  • Open source

 

Negative:

  • Local backup not encrypted (Android only)
  • Save some metadata in plain text
  • Video telephony only works correctly in the paid version
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