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Tor Project launches its first cross-platform messenger app for anonymous, encrypted IM

Tor Messenger - anonymous encryption onion routing
Maurice P./Flickr
Online privacy is a pressing concern for anyone living in the digital age – or at least, it should be. The increasingly popular Tor Browser has been one of the leading ways to access the Internet without leaving dangerous pathways of personal information. The Tor Project’s latest release is Tor Messenger, a messaging client that encrypts both message text and identifying sender information. The Tor Messenger also supports the messaging apps you already use, so your Off-the-Record conversations stay anonymous and untraceable, no matter your motivations or your preferred messaging app.

The first thing to know is that Tor Messenger is still in beta. As with any beta product, until the program’s full, official launch, features are not guaranteed to work without risks and potential speed bumps along the way. When it comes to privacy software, faulty anonymity protocols could defeat the purpose of the program altogether. The Tor Project, its fans, and its detractors all suggest using Tor Messenger with caution while it’s still in beta release.

Some of these concerns around the effectiveness of the privacy app have to do with the vulnerabilities in Tor Project products in the past. Federal organizations and security agencies have claimed victories in hacking through the masked IP address and global routing bumps to locate real users through the Tor Browser. Other concerns are unique to the security of Tor Messenger as an individual product – the Tor Project compromises the sender’s personal metadata in order to stay compatible with XMPP chat protocol.

In other words, the ability to send encrypted, anonymous messages over popular apps through Tor Messenger comes at a price. Users can send messages on Google Talk, Facebook Chat, Twitter, Yahoo and more from the Tor Messenger client, but while the sender benefits from certain promises of privacy and information security, contact info is available to the server ultimately connecting the conversation. The Tor Project’s overall focus is on anonymity and privacy, so they feel confident that users will be sufficiently protected by the anonymous routing procedures of the Tor Network.

The Tor Project admits that there are risks involved with beta testing a secure messaging platform. “Please note that this release is for users who would like to help us with the product but at the same time who also understand the risks involved in using beta software”, wrote Tor developer Sukhbir Singh on the Tor Project blog. If you’re interested in testing Tor Messenger yourself while it’s still in beta, you can download the client for Linux, Windows, and OS X.

On the other hand, if you’re not into being an information security guinea pig, you might want to wait for the Tor Messenger official release once the beta testing phase is over. After a full audit and all the program updates that will surely come out of this initial phase, Tor Messenger is poised to be a hugely successful cross-platform messaging client. An automatic Off-the-Record encyrption protocol and open source software backed by the expert development at The Tor Project will make the program a nearly fool-proof option to keep personal information private on the web.

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