Apps offer users ways to boost online security
The Wickr mobile app promises total confidentiality for users' digital communications. (Photo from Wickr Inc.)
Published Monday, April 21, 2014 8:30AM EDT
The uproar surrounding the National Security Agency's Prism program, in which the U.S. government collected data from citizens' webmail and social network accounts, has led to the development of encrypted alternatives to Gmail, Hotmail and other popular messaging services. Known only to a small set of users in the past, solutions for enhanced data security are now beginning to hit the mainstream.
In the past, most services designed to keep conversations private and cover users' tracks on the web were developed for computer specialists, hackers and political activists. The VPN service A/I (Autistici/Inventati), which lets users disguise their location, is a prime example. But ever since Edward Snowden's revelations on the NSA's Prism surveillance program, a wider set of users are looking for more confidential communication services than the ones that have already proven vulnerable to the U.S. government's prying eyes (Yahoo!, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.).
Lavaboom, a new free webmail service out of Germany, guarantees that all a users' emails are encrypted and that accounts are impenetrable to spying by any organization. The service also offers a paid subscription option for users who require larger data storage capacity and a more secure, three-level authentication process.
In the mobile sector, a number of apps have cropped up to offer enhanced data confidentiality. Among the most popular is Wickr, which provides advanced encryption of emails, text messages, shared images and videos. There is even a "self-destruct" option to ensure there is literally no trace of communications after they have been read.
Telegram, a confidential option for mobile instant messaging, ensures that chats are heavily encrypted and also offers a self-destruct feature.
The developers behind these new services are catering to users' growing distrust of more mainstream platforms, which are inherently less secure. These apps provide users with some semblance of privacy on the net, at least for now.