Twitter opens up Android SMS encryption tool

Twitter has made mobile security technology it gained from its Whisper Systems acquisition open source, with more code due to be released in the coming months
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Twitter has released a technology for encrypting text messages on Android devices as open-source.

The TextSecure software, which Twitter published to code repository Github on Tuesday, lets people add encryption to all sent and received texts from their Android phone, and can encrypt texts for transmission if they are being sent to another TextSecure user.

"We're excited to announce the open-source release of TextSecure, our secure text-messaging client for Android, which Twitter acquired when we joined their team last month," Whisper Systems's development team wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. "We've always been interested in the ability for individuals and organisations to communicate freely and securely.

"We hope that as an open-source project, TextSecure will be able to reach even more people, with an even larger number of contributors working to make it a great product."

Twitter acquired Whisper Systems for an undisclosed sum on 28 November. Whisper Systems co-founders, Moxie Marlinspike and Stuart Anderson, now work at Twitter. Marlinspike is an influential figure in the field of computer security, having developed programs for SSL-sniffing, obfuscating traceroutes, and cracking WPA passwords via the cloud, while Anderson has a passion for robotics and has collaborated with Marlinspike on software for two-factor authentication on Android.

We've always been interested in the ability for individuals and organisations to communicate freely and securely.
– Whisper Systems's dev team

Aside from TextSecure, Whisper Systems has developed software that encrypts phone calls and allows people to store encrypted backups of their Android phone in the cloud.

Its most expansive technology is WhisperCore 0.5, which provides a spread of security and management tools to the Nexus S and Nexus One Android phones.

Twitter said it would publish open-source versions of Whisper Systems's software in stages, starting with TextSecure, but did not specify a pipeline or whether any technologies will be excluded.

"Before we fully release Whisper Systems's code to the public in the coming months, we need to make sure it meets legal requirements and is consumable by the open-source community," Chris Aniszczyk, Twitter's open-source manager, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

There are a range of free and paid-for applications available on the Android Market that let people encrypt files and manage passwords on Android phones.

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