Hacking group plans system to encrypt social media and other apps
Story by Joseph Menn
SAN FRANCISCO — Once known for distributing hacking tools and shaming software companies into improving their security, a famed group of technology activists is now working to develop a system that will allow the creation of messaging and social networking apps that won’t keep hold of users’ personal data.
The group, Cult of the Dead Cow, has developed a coding framework that can be used by app developers who are willing to embrace strong encryption and forsake revenue from advertising that is targeted to individuals based on detailed profiles gleaned from the data most apps now routinely collect.
The team is building on the work of such free products as Signal, which offers strong encryption for text messages and voice calls, and Tor, which offers anonymous web surfing by routing traffic through a series of servers to disguise the location of the person conducting the search.
The latest effort, to be detailed at the massive annual Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas next week, seeks to provide a foundation for messaging, file sharing and even social networking apps without harvesting any data, all secured by the kind of end-to-end encryption that makes interception hard even for governments.