Mozilla's Codemoji: Now smiley's people can teach you encryption basics

Mozilla has launched Codemoji to teach people how ciphers work and the value of encryption in a world of mass surveillance.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

You can use emoji to encode a message and challenge a friend to decode it.

Image: Mozilla

Mozilla has launched Codemoji as part of its Encryption Matters campaign to teach people about privacy on the web.

The Codemoji website provides an easy way to share an emoji-encoded message with friends and challenge them to decode it.

Codemoji is simple to use and offers a game-like format to teach the basics of encryption. To create an emoji cipher, the user types in a phrase and then selects a particular emoji symbol.

Using the Caesar cipher method, each symbol scrambles the message in a different way, which appears as a random string of emoji. After sending a link containing the scrambled message to a friend, it's up to the recipient to figure out which symbol the sender used to scramble it.

Mozilla teamed up with Italian design agency TODO to build the mobile-friendly website. Of course, Codemoji isn't actually meant to be used as a secure messaging system.

But it may offer everyday internet users better insights into why encryption matters, an issue Mozilla has been promoting in light of recent and ongoing efforts by governments to undermine encryption.

"When more people understand how encryption works and why it's important to them, more people can stand up for encryption when it matters most," Mozilla executive director Mark Surman said.

"This is crucial: currently, encryption is being threatened around the world. From France to Australia to the UK, governments are proposing policies that would harm user security by weakening encryption. And in the US, the FBI recently asked Apple to undermine the security of its own products," he continued.

Mozilla isn't the first to offer a game such as a messaging app to encourage people to learn about encryption. UK spy agency GCHQ, which has been accused of weakening encryption, in 2014 launched its Cryptoy app for Android devices. There's no emoji but the app offers hands-on experience with the German Enigma code, the substitution and Vigenère ciphers, and the Caesar cipher.

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