Instant messaging (IM) is faster than email and enables text conversations in real time. Some IM applications have a voice component and are thus equivalent to an Internet phone call with a text supplement. IM very popular on the Internet, although it is normally not encrypted. If IM messages are encrypted in transit, they are decrypted when it reaches the server that is providing the messaging service. It has already been revealed by Edward Snowden and others that the NSA is recording almost all of the instant messaging traffic using PRISM and other tools. So, you can be sure that the NSA is getting all of your messages if you are using any major messaging provider such as:
- Google Talk
- AIM - AOL Instant Messenger
- Internet Relay Chat (IRC) - noncommercial
You can secure your messages by setting up an encrypted solution, of which there are many.
Cryptocat is an encrypted chat service that may be used to communicate with others while ensuring your conversations are kept private.
Keep in mind that Cryptocat itself has the following disclaimer:
Cryptocat is not a magic bullet. Even though Cryptocat provides useful encryption, you should never trust any piece of software with your life, and Cryptocat is no exception.
- Cryptocat does not anonymize you: While your communications are encrypted, your identity can still be traced since Cryptocat does not mask your IP address. For anonymization, we highly recommend using Tor.
- Cryptocat does not protect against key loggers: Your messages are encrypted as they go through the wire, but that doesn't mean that your keyboard is necessarily safe. Cryptocat does not protect against hardware or software key loggers which might be snooping on your keyboard strokes and sending them to an undesired third party.
- Cryptocat does not protect against untrustworthy people: Parties you're conversing with may still leak your messages without your knowledge. Cryptocat aims to make sure that only the parties you're talking to get your messages, but that doesn't mean these parties are necessarily trustworthy.
Pidgin is a great little messaging application that can interface with most of the major messaging providers. Rather than have a separate YM app, AIM app, Facebook app, etc., you can use Pidgin to manage all your messaging services in one place.
If you also install the pidgin-encryption plugin into Pidgin, you can enable encryption for your IM's. Both you and the person you want to chat with will need to install this. Once installed, turn on the plugin (it is off by default), and set the option to automatically encrypt by default. You can use this with any of the supported IM providers, for example Yahoo Messenger. When you start to IM, it'll automatically exchange public keys behind the scenes then send your encrypted message. The Yahoo Messenger server just sees garbage for a message. But, when decrypted on the other end, your friend sees the message. Because this encrypts end to end, anyone watching the traffic or the IM servers won't be able to see it. They can still tell who you are talking to, just not what you are saying.
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