Cryptocat Makes Web Privacy Easy and Accessible

Nadim Kobeissi, a Canadian and Lebanese college student, has made encrypted online communication sexy. Kobeissi is the creator of Cryptocat, an open-source web application that offers true anonymity to its users, without any required setup. While similar programs have appealed to the more computer literate, Kobeissi wants to make encrypted communication an accessible tool for everyone.

He has already gone to great lengths to make it more layman-friendly, with adorable promotions and almost no learning curve. Cryptocat requires no extra software for its use, and the stated goal is to make it as easy as Facebook Chat and Google Talk.

Kobeissi says his project is already a tool in some circles, and his Lebanese upbringing has shown him the need for easy online communication that a government cannot easily spy on, especially in the turbulent areas of the Middle East. He has seen people forego complicated OTR (off the record) communications, and suffer dire consequences:

“I have seen someone who I know knows how to use OTR not use OTR, and get tortured as a result, in Syria… OTR is not accessible, it’s not a pleasure to use.”

While the project is still being perfected, with Cryptocat 2 scheduled for release around the end of the year, Kobeissi’s work has not gone unnoticed by the powers that be, and he is subject to searches and interrogations whenever he tries to travel in the United States:

When he flies through the US, he’s generally had the notorious “SSSS” printed on his boarding pass, marking him for searches and interrogations — which Kobeissi says have focused on his development of the chat client…

His SSSS’s can mean hours of waiting, and Kobeissi says he has been searched, questioned, had his bags and even his passport taken away and returned later. But he’s kept his sense of humor about the experience, even joking from the airport on his Twitter account.

So when a man creates a means for people to communicate freely and privately, he is treated as a villain, a dangerous man who must be harassed and searched for abstract notions of “national security.”

Privacy is indeed a dangerous thing. The government says so.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Using this means your name goes on a list, right?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    You'll know when the SSSS starts showing up on your boarding pass.

  • ||

    That dude really knows what hes talking about.LOL

  • Hugh Akston||

    +

  • Ed||

    Wow I never looked at it that way

  • Pip||

    Makes sense if you think about it.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Nadim Kobeissi, a Canadian and Lebanese college student

    I knew several girls in college who were Lebanese until they graduated.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    They were just experimenting with their nationality.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Say what you want, but raw kibbie is pretty tasty.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Nayyeh.

  • Pip||

    "Nadim Kobeissi, a Canadian and Lebanese college student"

    That's one hell of a commute between classes.

  • robc||

    “I want it to be something that has a nice color scheme, that works in your browser, that you can open instantly, that’s easily accessible, that has a cat, that has audio notifications, that has desktop notifications,” Kobeissi said, “Because these are important security features.”

  • RBS||

    Well if it an overly affectionate Papillon it wouldn't be very secure at all now would it?

  • T||

    Seriously. Hand out treats and belly rubs and my pack of hounds falls apart as a security system. They're a greast alrm system, but useless once somebody's in the house unless the intruder has a fatal allergic reaction to dog spit.

  • RBS||

    Yeah the Allstate commercial where the burglars give the dog/mayhem character a giant bone and he thinks they're awesome because if it pretty much sums up our dogs ability to fend off intruders.

  • T||

    Well, we have one who has gender issues in that she really doesn't like unfamiliar men. So she's gonna raise hell as long as a strange male is in her house.

    The rest? Hand them a bone and you could loot the place down to the studs.

  • R C Dean||

    Same here. The Two Barbarians are utterly useless as either watch dogs (too sleepy) or guard dogs (never met a two-legged creature they didn't think needed a thick coat of slobber and, in season, dog hair).

    The Old Dog, I have noticed, barks like crazy at me and Mrs. Dean when we drive up to the house. Delivery trucks, workmen, total strangers - not a peep.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Well did you ever have a cat give away one of your secrets?

    Yeah, didn't think so.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Uh, if those "graphics" are any indication of his programming skill, um, I think I'll pass. And who gave that Mexican wrestler a spaceship in the first place?

  • T||

    Mayans. Duh.

  • ||

    I think the graphics might be some kind of hipstery nostalgic irony.

  • CE||

    Plus they're easier to draw, or to translate to a mobile app.

  • Tonio||

    Meh. I think the graphics only speak to his taste, and his skill as an artist. Nothing about that speaks to his skill as a coder or crypto guy.

  • ||

    I read his interview at Wired.com. This guy love retro 8-bit video games and the graphics he uses are an homage to them.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    OH MY GOSH PEOPLE THAT WAS THE JOKE NOBODY GETS ME

  • ||

    OK first Tuccille posts this at the end of his article:

    Yes, everything old really is new again, including the corporatist economic theories of fascism.

    Now we have Thompson posting this:

    Privacy is indeed a dangerous thing. The government says so.

    I am disappointed in both of you. You need to be way more subtle with your article ends...plus it should refer to something at the beginning or at least something in the article.

    It is as if you are trying to cram the plot twist the action climax and the epilogue of the story into one last sentence. The result being that it just floats there as if a random sentence was cut and pasted from some random other article.

    Horrible.

  • RBS||

    It's a blog post dude not the great American novel. Get over it.

  • ||

    Look how the master Sullum does it:

    More generally, living under an oppressive, arbitrary government promotes a kind of learned helplessness that may have lingering economic effects after the dictatorship has fallen.

    Friggin beautiful.

  • CE||

    Always include the "may have", even though you know you're right, so as to avoid offending those who disagree, and to plant a seed of doubt in their consciousness(es).

  • R C Dean||

    Remember, there's no difference between what he wrote, and saying ". . . a kind of learned helplessness that may or may not have lingering economic effects. . . ".

  • ||

    After China opened itself to trade it did not have lingering economic effects.

    Russia on the other hand...

    He used "may" because history shows it is not a sure thing.

  • Paul.||

    a Canadian and Lebanese

    I am confuse. How can you be both?

  • codest||

    Cryptocat is a very promising tool, but be careful before using it right now for very sensitive communications. This article goes into detail.
    http://bit.ly/MiOXyk
    Basically it hasn't been subject to extensive outside code review, and the much touted 'layman' features are actually not that safe. If you need privacy, invest in learning about TOR, which has ten years of development behind it.

  • Raston Bot||

    but does it have a cat?

  • ||

    Nope but its gotta an onion.
    ditto on what codest says, use TOR for strong anonymity and privacy (theres a cryptocat hidden services)
    Hit Run should do a post on running bridges and relays (and using TOR in general), especially since all its readers own a computer, and would probably be sympathetic to these types of projects

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement