Secure messaging apps have become somewhat of a commonplace on smartphones although few services exist across all major platforms. To that end, Skype is rolling out an end-to-end encryption feature for conversations from reports reaching us. The Microsoft-owned service has formed a partnership with Signal in order to enable the new functionality, which is optional and not default for every chat. Signal is an open source project presently found on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Google Allo.
Skype already had encryption for voice, file transfers and instant messaging but not end-to-end encryption. Many common Skype activities expose data that are not encrypted at various points between two users. Notably, local storage is not encrypted at all for standard conversations.
Skype’s new feature will be called Private Conversations and it will not be made available in group chat platforms. Invitations to secure chats on Skype must be accepted within seven days or else the invitation will expire. A lock icon will appear next to a contact’s name to show that a conversation is encrypted.
In order to further ensure privacy, Private Conversations will not be displayed in Chats or in any form of notification. Editing of messages is prohibited and forwarding of files is also disabled. Full encryption covers audio messages, text chat and files but is not applied to standard audio and video calling. Encrypted conversations are locked to the device they are started on. A separate invite must be sent if one wishes to switch over to another device.
For now, only Skype Insiders are able to try out Private Conversations for themselves. Matching build versions between users is required to try out the feature. If and when Signal integration is finally released, it is expected that all users above the initial release version will be able to interact securely.
Additional protection of communication may not seem as important to everyone but could be enough to get more users to consider Skype as their preferred means of contact.