Apr 15, 2009

Free Instant Messenger Encryption

A few months back I wrote about how I was switching to Digsby as my IM client. Well, a few weeks ago I decided to go back to Pidgin for my IM client of choice. Digsby was good, but it often slowed my machine down. Pidgin just runs lighter and I like it.

I got to playing with encryption again, and messing with PGP for email after my dad asked me about encrypting email. I was talking with Sundance about it, and Sundance jokingly said that we needed to set up encryption for our IM conversations. That got me searching Google for something we could use for encrypting our IM conversations as well as something that was free! In one single search I found my tool!

My tool happens to be a simple plugin for Pidgin called Pidgin-Encryption! Like everything about Pidgin, the Pidgin-Encryption plugin is 100% open source and free!

Here are some of the plug-in’s features from their website:

  • pidgin Automatically creates a public/private key pair for you upon loading the plugin
  • Automatically transmits your public key to other users.
  • Supports 512 - 4096 bit keys.
  • Saves keys of known users, and warns you if their public key has changed.
  • Embeds all encryption and keys inside HTML, so if the other user doesn't have the plugin, they will get a little message telling them about the plugin, and won't get a screen full of garbage.
  • Stores keys in human readable files in your .gaim/.pidgin directory, in case you ever need to copy/edit them by hand. Which you really shouldn't have to do.
  • Automatically recognizes if you are chatting with someone who has the plugin- see the Preferences dialog.
  • Available for the Windows version of Pidgin.
  • Modular and extensible. If you want to define a different type of encryption, you can use this plugin as a wrapper to take care of transporting the encrypted binary over the IM pipe.

The cool thing about it in my opinion is that since you are using it with Pidgin, you can have encrypted chat on any IM network as long as the person you are chatting with also uses Pidgin for their IM client. You can use MSN, AOL, Yahoo, GTalk, etc! It doesn’t matter!

Sundance and I have been using it for a few weeks now, and we like it. Everything is seamless including the key generation, and requesting each others public keys. Everything is done behind the scenes so we don’t have to think about it.

Another cool thing is that since Pidgin is available in all flavors of Operating systems including Linux, and Mac, this plug in is available too!

Know of another way to encrypt IM traffic? Do you use Pidgin-Encryption? Like it? Dislike it? Let me know in the comments!

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