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Signal adds encrypted chat for iOS, promises Android and web versions soon

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Signal is getting a major upgrade, with new texting features and a reorganized design rolling out on iOS today. Built as an easy system for encrypted chat, Signal launched last year with support for voice calls, but starting today, users will be able to send text, picture and video through the app, all of which will be encrypted before it leaves your phone. Since Signal doesn't hold the encryption keys, the company can't decrypt any of the data in transit, even if requested by law enforcement. "We wanted something that was just slick, easy to use and really frictionless," said Open Whisper Systems CTO Moxie Marlinspike.

"Easy to use and really frictionless"

Signal isn't available for Android yet, but that doesn't mean Android users are left entirely in the cold. Open Whisper Systems also makes TextSecure and RedPhone for texts and calling respectively, both of which are compatible with Signal. All three programs will eventually be combined into an Android version of Signal, which Marlinspike says is coming "real soon." There's also a web app in the works, which will bring Signal to the desktop.

The code behind the apps is all open-source, which allows for easy auditing if researchers want to make sure Signal is as secure as Open Whisper says it is. It also allows for interesting partnerships, like the company's implementation with WhatsApp in November, which gave the massively popular chat app end-to-end encryption thanks to Open Whisper Systems' backend code. That enormous new userbase has also given the company a chance to find bugs and clear any kinks in the system at large. "The whole protocol is designed to be fast," Marlinspike says.