The Loki Foundation recently released the whitepaper for the Session private messenger app. The app has now gone live for iOS and Android devices. According to the whitepaper, this app does not leave behind any data trail, which ensures authorities cannot snoop on what you are doing.
The Problem with Current Messaging Apps
According to the whitepaper, there has been a growth in the use of messaging apps in the past decade. Some of the biggest apps today have over a billion users. However, this has created problems with privacy and security. It notes that most apps focus on encrypting messages, which has been quite successful.
However, it notes that end-to-end encryption does not deal with problems of states and corporations using metadata to track users. Metadata entails the use of phone numbers and IP addresses. Besides that, they can track users by checking the relationship between users sending messaging and the number of messages sent between users. This poses a huge risk for activists, journalists, and human rights defenders. The Session app wants to solve these issues with the blockchain.
About the Session Solution
The Session app is a fork of the Signal app, which is popular for its end-to-end encryption. It is quite popular for those obsessed with privacy in the crypto world. However, the addition of blockchain technology makes this app even more secure. Session will be commingling some of the most effective privacy technologies today such as:
- The Signal Protocol
- Onion Routing
- Decentralised Message Storage / Retrieval
The app is powered by the Service Node blockchain, which is a decentralized network that is used for messaging. To improve privacy, the app hides the IP address of its users on the blockchain, ensuring that you can use it without the need for a phone number. One of the methods authorities use to track users is combining your phone number with IP addresses.
To achieve this, the nodes of the blockchain will only record the IP address of the previous and the following nodes. While the first node will view your IP address, the IP address is not going to be exposed to those who get your message or to anyone who might be watching the network.
This is not the first app to attempt to deal with the problem of metadata. David Chaum, who is considered a pioneer in cryptography, came up with the Prelixxir app that runs on the Elixxir network. To keep the nodes transmitting messages, the Session app uses cryptocurrency as an incentive.
Risk of Sybil Attack
By relying on the blockchain, Session leaves itself vulnerable to a Sybil attack. This is where hackers could simulate thousands of nodes on the blockchain and use them to spy on the users. However, the whitepaper claims they have protection from such an attack.
Every node has to stump up some crypto as collateral if it wants to operate the network. As a result, this would make it quite expensive to carry out a Sybil attack. Besides that, users of the app can keep the blockchain secure by running nodes. This way, users of the app will be responsible for their privacy.
For those truly obsessed with privacy and keeping their data away from authorities and corporations, this app seems great. Only time will tell if it delivers on what it promises.
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