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article imageMicrosoft partners with Signal to bring encryption to Skype

By James Walker     Jan 12, 2018 in Technology
Microsoft has announced a partnership with messaging platform Signal that will enable full end-to-end Skype encryption. Skype already features encryption as part of its proprietary protocol but the service doesn't offer truly private conversations.
Announced this week, the partnership sees Microsoft follow rivals including Google and Facebook in adopting Signal's protocol. Originally developed for its own Signal messaging app, the protocol enables encrypted messaging, audio calls and file transfers that are indecipherable at any point in their journey.
End-to-end encryption works by securely transmitting data at every point in a message's progression. Nobody can intercept the message because it's encrypted as soon as you've created it on your device. Not even the service operator is able to open or inspect the contents of your chats.
Microsoft is implementing end-to-end encryption in Skype as a new feature called Private Conversations. When you create a Private Conversation with a contact, it will be fully encrypted so you can be confident your privacy is protected. Regular conversations will continue to use Skype's proprietary communication protocol which does not enforce encryption as strongly as Signal.
New Skype mobile app
New Skype mobile app
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"At Signal, our goal is to make private communication simple and ubiquitous," said Signal in a blog post. "With hundreds of millions of active users, Skype is one of the most popular applications in the world, and we're excited that Private Conversations in Skype will allow more users to take advantage of Signal Protocol's strong encryption properties for secure communication."
The adoption of the Signal protocol is a big step forward for Skype. The app has failed to keep up with the adoption of newer messaging services such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Microsoft's attempts to redesign the app have proved highly controversial, while modern features such as encryption have remained unsupported despite the wider industry push to adopt them.
Skype is still widely used but it has failed to convert its desktop market share into mobile dominance. Introducing stronger security is a logical development for Microsoft as it tries to grow the service again.
The partnership with Signal could help to encourage adoption amongst security-conscious mobile users. It's so far only available in Skype's preview apps though, with no word yet on when it will roll out broadly.
More about Microsoft, Signal, Skype, Encryption, Messaging
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