How Viber Is Fortifying the Security of Its Global Messaging Services

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2016-04-25
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    How Viber Is Fortifying the Security of Its Global Messaging Services
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    How Viber Is Fortifying the Security of Its Global Messaging Services

    Viber just made its messaging services more secure by rolling out end-to-end encryption. Here is what that means for its more than 700 million users.
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    Viber Is a Multiplatform App
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    Viber Is a Multiplatform App

    So, what exactly is Viber? Similar to many other messaging apps available now, Viber is a multiplatform communications tool. Users can send photos, videos, text and more across the Web. Users can communicate with friends, family and business associates. They also have the ability to publicly chat with others. Best of all, nearly all of Viber's communication features are free.
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    You and Your Friends Must Be Viber Users to Get the Benefits
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    You and Your Friends Must Be Viber Users to Get the Benefits

    Because Viber is a proprietary platform, users can only communicate with other Viber users. So, if a person is on WhatsApp but wants to talk to someone on Viber, that person would need to download the Viber app to get going. As Viber notes, once users and their friends sign up for the service, they can talk and message as much as they'd like.
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    Check Out the Video Calling
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    Check Out the Video Calling

    Viber offers full support for video calling. As long as users are running Viber version 5.0 or later, they can place a video call. To do so, users click on their contacts and tap the camera icon. The service immediately pings the other user to see if they'd like to hold a video chat. It's very similar to Apple's FaceTime.
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    Viber Moves to End-to-End Encryption
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    Viber Moves to End-to-End Encryption

    Viber is now rolling out end-to-end encryption across its apps. According to the company, the encryption works on one-to-one or group messages, as well as on calls, so all types of communication is supported. While Viber didn't initially reveal how it's encrypting communications, the company did say that each user will have an "individual cryptography key associated with his or her device" to enhance security.
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    Why Did Viber Deliver End-to-End Encryption?
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    Why Did Viber Deliver End-to-End Encryption?

    With law-enforcement agencies increasingly seeking user data and major companies, like Apple and Google, already encrypting communication, smaller service providers like Viber need to keep up. The time is ripe to deliver end-to-end encryption on communication. Viber's decision to deliver it now is in part a response to Apple's row with the FBI as well as WhatsApp's decision to support end-to-end encryption. Viber is keeping up with the leaders of the pack, so it's not left behind.
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    A Way to Verify Encryption
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    A Way to Verify Encryption

    Viber has created a way for users to know that their communication is actually encrypted. When communicating with another user, users will see a gray padlock to confirm encryption. If there is ever a red lock displayed, it suggests there's an issue with encryption authentication and could mean a third party is peering in to see what's being said. For people seeking security, keeping an eye on that lock will be critical.
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    Chat's Don't Need to Be Private
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    Chat's Don't Need to Be Private

    In addition to private chats, Viber offers a public chat feature, allowing users to collectively communicate with celebrities, bands, sports stars and other people. In those cases, celebrities will announce a public Viber chat and at the designated time, users can go public and chat with that person and others participating in the chat. It's an interesting way to connect with celebrities, though it's unclear how many A-listers are really using Viber to communicate with fans.
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    Make Calls to Others
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    Make Calls to Others

    In addition to video calling, Viber has a paid service it calls Viber Out. The service allows users to make calls from their Viber app directly to other Viber users or a person's telephone. Viber-to-Viber voice calls are free, but Viber Out calls to regular phones start at 1.3 cents per minute. Prices vary depending on the country users are calling.
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    Hidden Chats Are Another New Feature
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    Hidden Chats Are Another New Feature

    Also on April 19, Viber announced the launch of Hidden Chats. The feature allows users to pick which chats they want to keep hidden from the main screen of recent chats. To open the chat window and see "Hidden Chats," users need to input a predetermined PIN. Viber says the feature hides chats so "no one but the user knows they exist."
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    Understanding Viber's Reach
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    Understanding Viber's Reach

    Viber's decision to deliver encryption was a blow to law enforcement around the world. Viber has 700 million users worldwide who are now being assured they will be able to communicate with each other without fear of law enforcement snooping. While that might upset the FBI, it's far from the only agency to be upset. Viber, which is owned by Japan-based e-commerce company Rakuten, operates in 193 countries. Viber, in other words, is very, very big. Now if Viber's encryption is as strong as it claims, communication over its network has gone completely dark in nearly 200 countries at least as far as law enforcement and intelligence gatherers are concerned.
 

Viber, which has more than 700 million users worldwide, announced on April 19 that it was rolling out end-to-end encryption across all of its messaging apps. The timing is notable. Viber's move comes after competitor WhatsApp announced its own end-to-end encryption rollout and in the wake of the legal wrangle between Apple and the FBI over efforts to decrypt data stored on an iPhone used by a terrorist in the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif. U.S. government officials are arguing against the implementation of strong encryption to secure mobile phones and messaging applications. Law enforcement agencies say they need to have some way to get around built-in security measures so they can track terrorist or criminal activity. An increasing number of technology companies, however, are implementing data encryption that ensures that even they can't comply with government demands to hand over the decrypted contents of email accounts and databases. Now Viber is the latest messaging service provider to implemented end-to-end encryption. This slide show looks at Viber's various online services and how the company has attracted so many users worldwide.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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