Viber announced today that it’s rolling out end-to-end encryption on all platforms — Mac, PC, iOS and Android. Once you download the newest update, Version 6.0, each voice and video call, text message, video and photo share in both private or group chat will be encrypted.
According to Viber COO Michael Shmilov:
“We take our users’ security and privacy very seriously, and it’s critical to us that they feel confident and protected when using Viber. Because of this, we have spent a long time working on this latest update to ensure that our users have the most sophisticated security available and maximum control over their communications. We will continue to make this an ongoing priority as digital communication evolves.”
The service will also offer a “hidden chat” feature that allows users to hide specific conversations from the home screen.
What’s not immediately clear is what protocol Viber is using to protect its users. While end-to-end encryption is a great idea in theory, the reality of the matter is that not all encryption is created qual.
Two other popular services, Signal and WhatsApp, allow you to compare key fingerprints with the other party, a feature Viber’s encryption method doesn’t seem to offer. Without this authentication method, you could conceivably be chatting with — or having your messages intercepted by — a third-party (called a man-in-the-middle attack).
Another concern with the protocol is in the idea that some companies believe they can roll their own solution by understanding the basics of cryptography. The truth is, the best encryption protocols are studied, tested and generally (but not always) open source. Without an independent audit, we really have no choice but to trust the company when it says our messages are secure.
Still, Viber joining a growing number of messaging apps — likeWhatsApp, Wire, Telegram and Signal — that offer full end-to-end encryption is definitely a step in the right direction, but until we know more about the protocol in use and the authentication methods, it’s kind of a crapshoot.
We’ve reached out to Viber for additional clarification and will update if more information becomes available.