Microsoft Begins Testing End-To-End Encryption in Skype
Microsoft has begun rolling out a new feature which allows end-to-end encryption in Skype conversations which is dubbed as 'Private Conversation'. Private Conversations with end-to-end encryption is available only to Skype Insider testers using Skype 126.96.36.199 for iOS, Android, Linux, Mac, and Windows Desktop.
The feature lets you have end-to-end encrypted Skype audio calls and send text messages, images, audio, or videos, using the industry standard Signal Protocol by Open Whisper Systems, which is also used by competitors such as WhatsApp, Signal, and Apple. The content of these conversations will be hidden in the chat list as well as in notifications to keep the information you share privately.
The beta testers will be able to start private conversations with other Skype Insiders using the latest preview version, and interactions will be limited to one-to-one conversations, for now. In order to use the feature, a user has to select the “New Private Conversation” option from the compose menu or from the recipient’s profile. After the recipient accepts your invite, all calls and messages in that conversation will be encrypted end-to-end until you choose to end it.
One can only participate in a private conversation from a single device at a time with the option to switch the conversation to any of your devices, but the messages you send and receive will be tied to the device you’re using at the time. It means that you won't be able to see the encrypted messages sent from your mobile device on your desktop and vice versa.
End-To-End Encryption on Top of 256-Bit AES Encryption
Skype already employs 256-bit AES encryption to protect data transferred between two clients, which is different from end-to-end encryption. End-to-end encryption means that the communication channel is secure and the messages stored on servers can only be read by those involved in the communications, via a decryption key stored on the device, as opposed to being stored on a remote server.
End-to-end encryption is the need of the hour as security flaws in otherwise secure systems get exposed on a regular basis. End-to-end encryption is also a boon for people living under oppressive regimes, who regularly need to keep sensitive content away from the prying eyes of the government.
Microsoft has not revealed when the feature will be implemented in the main Skype client, but it's safe to assume that it'll be at least a few weeks/months before all the kinks are ironed out.