Bitmessage: Secure, NSA-Proof, Decentralized Peer-To-Peer Encrypted Messaging
Secure, NSA-Proof, Decentralized Peer-To-Peer
If Bitmessage Is Completely New To You, You May Wish To Start By Reading The Whitepaper.
Setting Up And Using Bitmessage – An Encrypted Communications Platform Based On Bitcoin
I’ve just finished reading the Bitmessage white paper by Jonathan Warren and must say I find myself inspired. BitMessage is the decentralized peer to peer communication system that uses basic encryption to keep both sender and receiver anonymous, if they choose. While Bitmessage is still very new, it is a potential game changer when it comes to secure communications. Living in a time where large data centers that can store all our private communications are a reality, BitMessage provides a degree of resistance. Here’s an overview of BitMessage as well as a quick tutorial on setting up the client.
An Overview Of Bitmessage
BitMessage uses a form of public key encryption to secure communications between two parties over the internet. As outlined in the Bitmessage white paper current solutions for encrypted email are difficult to use and require exchanging both an email address and encryption keys through a trusted third party.
With BitMessage a series of unique solutions are used to allow users to communicate with just a 36 character address. The protocol, loosely based off of Bitcoin, uses your computer’s processing power to process messages. Each message requires a proof of work that is designed to take around four minutes.
Another important feature of Bitmessage is the ability to broadcast messages or to subscribe to broadcasts. Broadcasts are messages that are sent out to any group of Bitmessage users that are listening. In this way, organizations or individuals can get information out to their subscribers anonymously if they choose. I’ve recently started to use Bitmessage’s broadcast feature for my recent posts and updates here on CryptoJunky.
Setting Up Bitmessage
Setting up BitMessage couldn’t be easier. If you’re a windows user download the .exe file. If you’re a Mac OS X or Linux user the python code is available through BitMessage.org. I’ll be covering the basics with Windows here, though it should be about the same with Mac OS X and Linux. Once you’ve opened up BitMessage you’ll need to create an ‘identity’ or two as they’re referred to.
BitMessage Your Identities
Start by going to the ‘your identities’ tab and clicking ‘new’. You’ll see two options pop up, one that allows you to make a random number generator and another that uses a passphrase to make addresses. I suggest that you use a passphrase to make your address(es) as you will then be able to use these identities on another machine or another installation of BitMessage. If you choose this option you will also have a number of addresses to make, the default is eight.
BitMessage Create Identities
Once you’ve decided on a passphrase go ahead and find a good place to store it or have something easily remembered. There is no recovery kit for lost BitMessage passwords. You’ll also need the address version number to replicate these addresses on another computer (I also record the Stream number).
Sending And Receiving Your First Message
So you have your client set up and you’d like to actually use this thing. Well if you’d like to send a test message you can send one to me and I’ll send one on back. Go to the ‘send’ tab of the BitMessage client and enter the following address in the ‘to’ field:
Once you’ve done that just choose one of your addresses to use as a ‘From’ address and fill in your test message. Once the message is complete click send. It will take a few minutes for the message to be processed and sent so don’t shut down BitMessage or your computer during that time.
BitMessage Send Message
If you’d like to try out the broadcast/subscription feature you can go to the ‘Subscriptions’ tab and click the add button. Enter the same address as above and you’ll receive the messages I send out when I have a decent new post or service to announce.
Given that BitMessage is still relatively young there aren’t too many communities for it yet. If you’re starting out now it’s like that you’re an early adopter. There is a BitMessage forum over at BitMessage.org. There is also a BitMessage subreddit over at Reddit.com under r/BitMessage. There’s a lot more that you can do with BitMessage than just what I’ve covered here so play around with it, explore, and let me know what you find!
That’s all I have for now on BitMessage. If you have a story or tip related to BitMessage, Bitcoin, or Encryption send me a BitMessage at BM-2DBXxtaBSV37DsHjN978mRiMbX5rdKNvJ6 or you can send me an email at: Monty@DPL-Surveillance-Equipment.com.
An open source client is available for free under the very liberal MIT license. For screenshots and a description of the client, see the CryptoJunky article: "Setting Up And Using Bitmessage".
Here is a simple echo server which will send your message back to you after being received: BM-orkCbppXWSqPpAxnz6jnfTZ2djb5pJKDb
You may view the Python source code on Github. Bitmessage requires PyQt and OpenSSL. Step-by-step instructions on how to run the source code on Linux, Windows, or OSX is available here.
Bitmessage should run on any OS though it is only lightly tested on OSX. The start-on-boot and minimize-to-tray features are only implemented for Windows thus far.
Security Audit Needed
Bitmessage is in need of an independent audit to verify its security. If you are a researcher capable of reviewing the source code, please email the lead developer. You will be helping to create a great privacy option for people everywhere!
Visit or subscribe to the Bitmessage subreddit.
A community-based forum for questions, feedback, and discussion is also available at Bitmessage.org/forum
Germany Thumbs Nose at the NSA
The global backlash against the National Security Agency’s cyber spying picked up a notch as Germany’s leading telecom company announced that all email flowing among three of the nation’s email services will remain on German servers at all times. The move reflects powerful differences in the way that Americans and Europeans view privacy—and just happens to coincide quite nicely with the commercial interests of European Internet companies, who have yet to achieve anything close to the scale of Google Inc. or Amazon.com Inc.
Lost in the political and economic battle, which President Obama addressed are the interests of corporations and other users, who will find that their enhanced privacy—whether they want it or not—will add complexity to their business. President Obama called for an overhaul of surveillance policy that would disclose more information about a secret national security court and disclose more information about the National Security Agency. He also acknowledged that the review was prompted by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
“It is completely political,” David Horrigan, an analyst and attorney at 451 Research, said of the new policy in Germany. Announced by Deutsche Telekom AG, the new program, called “Email Made in Germany,” will encrypt German email and warn Internet users when they are sending email to a service that isn’t part of the program. The three participating companies are DT’s T Online, GMX and web.de. A government mandate of the same policy has been discussed, but not enacted.
If national security demanded it, German and French law would allow authorities to exercise the same sort of surveillance powers that their counterparts in the U.S. wield, according to Mr. Horrigan, who specializes in e-discovery and information governance. He said that he wasn’t making an assessment of the merits of the NSA program one way or the other.
But political gestures often have huge business consequences. Mr. Horrigan said U.S. Internet companies need to take the European objections to NSA spying seriously. “I think the U.S. companies really must address the issue,” he said. He said that they need to explain just how narrow the differences in the U.S. and European government spying powers really are. If they don’t, European rivals may well succeed in using the NSA spying issue as a competitive opening.
At the technological level, the new program adds complexity to networking and IT, but it is technologically feasible, according to Mr. Horrigan. Even in developed countries, “you can stipulate that certain kinds of information have to be on certain servers,” he said. That’s true even in the case of U.S. operations of German companies, he said. That does not mean, however, that it is easy to do.
“Although it’s feasible technically to limit data to non-US servers, from a practical standpoint, it’s a nightmare. For instance, most large German-based multinationals have U.S. operations. Keeping that data off U.S. servers presents substantial challenges,” he said.
Compliance would add costs to doing business, Mr. Horrigan said. “One way to comply with the new policy would be to have silos of computer operations, which is not particularly efficient,” Mr. Horrigan said. That would mean keeping U.S. computer operations on U.S. servers, German computer operations on German servers, and so forth—adding layers of infrastructure for no technological reason, at a time when most operators are reducing them.
It’s also unclear just how effective a defense email encryption will be. One such service shut down this week, as the Download reported on Friday. Jon Callas, co-founder of Silent Circle Inc., said on Twitter and in a blog post that Silent Circle had ended Silent Mail. Silent Circle will continue to offer secure texting and secure phone calls, but email is harder to keep truly private, Mr. Callas wrote.
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