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TextSecure - Android SMS Replacement App

, posted: 5-Mar-2014 06:00

TextSecure is a Drop-In SMS replacement app for Android.  I consider it to be very similar to Apple's iMessage, in that messages to other TextSecure users are sent over the Data Channel (referred to by TextSecure as Push) thereby bypassing your carriers SMS fees.  It also provides easy to use secure group messaging.

Unlike Apple's iMessage however, both the client and the server used are fully Open Source.  It's been written and developed by Moxie Marlinspike who is a well known and trusted security and crypto guy.

TextSecure aims to bring some privacy to your life in these days of everyone watching everything you do.  It does this by:

  • Encrypting all texts received to it's database, which by default requires a password to be set to allow access. The App can be configured to stay unlocked for a length of time, or the password requirement can be switched off entirely if you like.
  • Encrypting all texts to other TextSecure users.  Even when not using the Data/Push method, SMS and MMS to other TextSecure users are encrypted.  It's seemless, you only know the message was encrypted by the little lock icon showing on the message.
  • If available, it will use the Data/Push channel, bypassing SMS/MMS fees.  Again this is seemless, the only way you know this has happened is by the different colour of the sent/received message in the interface, again exactly like iMessage.

I really like TextSecure and it's replaced the standard SMS app on my phone, though I should note you can configure it not be your default SMS app and  use it only for secure messages.

I've shown it to a few people and they've said "This is just another WhatsApp/Viber replacement" which is true, except it's fully open source and you can trust that only you and the person you sent the message to can read it. Not also WhatsApp/FaceBook/Viber/FBI etc.

The downsides are there's no iPhone version at the moment, and there's no desktop or Tablet version.  Work is progressing on the iPhone version and Desktop version, hopefully to be released later this year.  Texts to your iPhone friends will just go through as a standard SMS.

Lastly, if you're a Cyanogenmod user, support for TextSecure's protocol was recently rolled into the SMS framework, helping to increase the mass adoption of TextSecure.

Give it a try, even if it's just because its SMS/MMS Interface is better than the stock one IMHO.

- muppet

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Other related posts:
TextSecure: Now for iOS

Comment by Damager, on 7-Mar-2014 00:08

So if you text someone that isnt on textSecure, does that mean your text doesnt go through data? Or your text still uses data but the other end gets via the usual non data method?

Author's note by muppet, on 7-Mar-2014 07:28

If you text someone who isn't on TextSecure, the text is sent as it normally would be, via your Carrier's SMS (i.e. non-data)

If you send someone a photo and they're not using TextSecure, then it's sent as an MMS.

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New Zealand

My name's Tim and I'm a Network Engineer! Well these days I'm actually a Network Architect. I'm one of those weird people that really love their job. I work with a great bunch of people in an interesting industry that's always changing. Sometimes slower than I'd like.

In my spare time I work on the LiCe Script for the EPIC5 IRC Client. Try it out, it's like Irssi but better.