Apple has hired one of the key developers of 'Signal', the secure encrypted messaging service that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden uses, according to Business Insider. Apple has indicated that it plans to upgrade the security on iPhones and its iCloud service so that even it can't access the data it stores. Frederic Jacobs tweeted the news earlier today, as noted in our cover graphic.
It's just an internship, according to Frederic Jacobs, but it's a sign that Apple is very serious about locking down its products with encryption. Signal is widely seen in the information security world as the best encrypted messaging app.
Belgian-born Jacobs wrote most of the code for 'Signal' while a computer-science student at Switzerland's EPFL. "When I joined Open Whisper Systems a little over a year ago," he recalls, "I had in mind this project that would bring together two of my personal interests, modern cryptography and global privacy." The application was previously available for mobile phones using the open-source operating system Android, but not for those running Apple's iOS. More important, Jacobs noticed that most security protocols were obsolete compared to state-of-the-art methods being created in academic research labs. "I wanted to bring these strong cryptography techniques to iPhone users."
Encrypted communications may seem of interest only to those who deal with highly sensitive data, such as banking transactions or intelligence, or to malevolent users hoping to stay unnoticed. The members of Open Whisper Systems believe that even if the majority of Internet users have nothing to hide, they have a right to privacy because the most common business model in the web industry is based on advertising. "The personal data people give away in exchange for a free service like e-mail, searching or news allows firms to develop increasingly targeted ad strategies," says Jacobs. "No one knows the limits."