Future Tense Central, a privacy-centric company led by John McAfee, unveiled a new private messaging app called Chadder during the Imagine RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) festival on Monday. McAfee, who is known for his role in establishing McAfee Antivirus, is working with Etransfr on the Chadder project. There are few details regarding how the application works, but according to McAfee and the other parties involved, it is a "highly secure system."
Encryption is what makes the messages sent through Chadder private, though there are already some concerns as to how the encryption is applied. The Android version of the app has been released on Google Play and the iOS version is expected to be released in the near future.
The Encryption Question
As with any secure messaging application, encryption is what matters. Given the lack of information regarding how Chadder works, there are some concerns that have already been raised. Many of the concerns have come as a result of discrepancy between the various press materials regarding the encryption process.
Since a press release that was published Monday suggests that the app is practically impenetrable, there are bound to be some questions as to how messages are secured to that extent. We spoke with Andrew at Future Tense Central (aka Future Tense Private Systems) to find out how the app actually protects data. He told us that despite some reports to the contrary, messages are never unencrypted with Chadder.
"The message is never unencrypted, it's encrypted client-side . . . on the server there is no unencrypted version, so there is never any danger of plaintext," Andrew said. Another concern that has been raised more than once revolves around whether the server operator can connect an encryption key to a message and its sender.
According to Andrew and Future Tense, there is no log with that sort of data, either. "The keys are generated client-side as well and they are stored server-side, there is no correlation between the two. So even if somebody were to get into our servers . . . there is no way to correlate [the keys with the messages]," he said.
More Than One Alternative
Chadder's privacy concerns aside, there are a variety of messaging applications geared toward privacy on both iOS and Android. For iOS users, there is iMessage pre-installed, though people need to trust that Apple will protect their data. However, there are third-party apps available on both platforms that encrypt messages if the apps included with the devices are not sufficient.
Wickr, for example, includes both encryption and self-destructing features, so the messages are untraceable. Wickr is free and can be found on both iOS and Android, though there are paid options as well. Silent Circle, the company behind Blackphone, has released Silent Text, which also encrypts messages, for $10 a month.