Tor launches messenger service, looks to keep things private

TOR has announced it is soon launch a new chat client that will protect its messages from prying eyes.

The Onion Network, known as TOR, is a network of computers or ‘bridges' that disguises the origin of traffic by moving data across different Tor servers, and encrypting that traffic so it can't be traced back to anyone.

Tor Messenger will allow users to chat over the TOR network, hiding the location of participants. The contents of messages will only be visible to the participants.

The service will also work with platforms such as Facebook even in countries where they are banned. Users wishing to remain anonymous or access chat clients blocked in their own country could use Tor Messenger to chat via services like Facebook Chat, Google Talk, Twitter, Yahoo and Internet Relay Chat.

Enabled by default, messages may be encrypted to provide additional security. Though, both parties in a one-to-one chat would have to have off-the-record encryption (OTR) set up.

This requires the two parties to exchange a secret key which is needed to decode the messages they send to each other.

Renate Samson, chief executive of Big Brother Watch commented: "Secure communications such as TOR chat client can provide a safe space for people in vulnerable situations to communicate confidently. There are many parts of the world where social media is not a safe space to chat, to share or to engage in any form of discussion.

"That this system will provide a fully encrypted space where you are safe in the knowledge you can speak freely, will help many people share and stay safe in unsafe environments."

According to TOR, the messenger service is currently in beta and will undergo security tests.