Tor network based messaging app Briar Enters Beta Stage
With the concerns about privacy and data protection at an all time high, the one thing users crave for the most is a messaging app that is encrypted and completely safe. Quite a few apps have risen to meet this demand by offering end-to-end encryption but as every avid internet user knows, there is nothing quite like the Tor network when it comes to security on the internet.
Briar clears security hurdle
Briar is the name of this messaging service that has been developed to run over the Tor network. The app is currently available for Android and is in its beta stage today. As with many free to use software, the developers of Briar are in no hurry to give Whatsapp a run for its money so expect a longer development time but a much better end product.
The team has revealed that they had an independent security audit done on their project by Cure53 – the same organization that has reviewed services such as SecureDrop, Cryptocat, and Dovecot in the past. The security report concluded that Briar for Android provides “an overall good handling of matters linked to security and privacy.” The main aspect of the project – the code that deals with the cryptography – “was found to be exceptionally clear and sound, with no vulnerabilities spotted,” Cure53 said. On a side note, there were bugs detected during the audit but they are said to have been fixed in the version that has been made available.
Cannot be taken down
The major advantage of using the Tor network is that the network cannot be taken down completely by any entity or government and Briar sticks to that notion thus making this a haven for journalists and activists for whom secrecy is key. Under the hood, Briar uses a peer-to-peer network to relay information rather than central servers. In addition, all messages use forward secrecy and do not contain any meta data. These very things also make it censorship resistant. By default, the app will use the Tor network to communicate but in case the network is not accessible, the app can also work on WiFi or Bluetooth networks.
“Like with many Free Software projects, it will be done when it is done,” said Torsten Grote, one of the app’s developers. “Briar is built as modular as possible. There are two libraries that can be used to build apps on top of them. We definitely want to do a desktop app.”
“An iOS app is trickier because iOS is more closed than Android,” Grote added. “There are heavier restrictions on background services for example that are required for P2P apps.We are currently collecting issues to address for a second beta release. Our private beta testers were mostly worried about two things: battery usage and the ability to add contacts remotely.”
He also noted that the app is designed to be agnostic to the data transport that is used which means that the developers can switch from the Tor network to something else if a better medium emerges in the future. The Tor project meanwhile, has its own messenger app but that is restricted to Linux, Windows and Mac. Though Briar is a direct competitor to Tor, the developers are said to be on cordial terms. “Our developers know many of the Tor developers and they know us,” Grote said. “We discuss issues like battery usage of Tor on mobile devices and work together to improve that.”