Israeli-based Viber adds ‘secure’ end-to-end encryption to chats

Viber join rival's WhatsApp in providing end-to-end security. © Lucy Nicholson
VOIP provider Viber is hoping to raise its "Secure Messaging Score" by giving end-to-end encryption to its 700 million-plus users.

CEO Michael Shmilov announced the news in a blogpost Tuesday.

The end-to-end encryption (E2E) will be rolled out over the next two weeks with an encryption key for each individual device.

They say messages between encrypted devices will not be visible to the Internet Service Provider or Viber, supposedly protecting them from any court orders to reveal communications between devices.

Two Belarusian friends from the Israeli Defence Forces started the company just five years ago and sold it to the Japanese firm Rakuten for US$900 million in 2014.

WhatsApp, which has more than one billion monthly active users, released E2E encryption after Apple’s battle with the FBI over a San Bernardino suspect’s iPhone.

A “third-party” company, which “expert” sources cited by Ynetnews say is the Israeli company Cellebrite, eventually aided the FBI by creating decryption software for the device.

The code reportedly doesn’t work in newer devices including the iPhone 5s and 6.

An encryption bill described as “ludicrous, dangerous, and technically illiterate” by Kevin Bankston, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, is currently being discussed in Congress that would mandate any US companies who receive a court order to provide a decryption key.

Viber’s new encryption software was developed in-house using an open-source protocol concept and the company warns data will be accessible to anyone with access to the device whether physically or through hacking.

The company also introduced Hidden Chats, allowing users to hide selected chats from the main screen, so anyone else using their device will be unaware they exist.

Viber claim this is required for families who share devices and “have personal chats while at work or plan surprises for loved ones.”