Microsoft adds end-to-end encryption to Skype for secure conversations

Skype displaying a Private Conversation acceptance screen

Microsoft is testing a new feature for Skype: end-to-end encrypted chat conversations, secured using the industry standard Signal Protocol by Open Whisper Systems. Images, audio or video files sent via Skype's text messaging feature will also be encrypted.

Microsoft says it plans to work on improving the user experience around invitations to join private conversations, and to bring this to the Universal Windows Platform Skype client.

This experimental feature "Private Conversations" will be available to anyone using beta Skype Insider build on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android. The encryption will cover chat, files, and audio messages but audio and video calls are not encrypted.

It is important to note that no chat content from these conversations will be displayed in the chat list, or with other notifications - in order to keep any shared information private.

Signal is the gold standard of end-to-end encryption.

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The select the contact to start a Private Conversation.

Redmond has been a laggard in locking down Skype as a truly end-to-end encrypted comms system - end-to-end meaning only the people talking to each other can decrypt the chatter, leaving Microsoft and whoever may be eavesdropping on the connections in the dark. "You can switch the conversation to any of your devices, but the messages you send and receive will be tied to the device you're using at the time".

Several popular services have added encrypted messaging for their products, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, while other apps like Threema specialize in it. Skype, despite its popularity, has been slow to offer its users this option. However, the end-to-end goes a step further than this by encrypting stored messages as well.

A Private Conversation will have a lock icon next to your contact's name.

Currently, only Skype Insiders are able to try out Private Conversations for themselves. What would happen if you forget to enter "Private Conversations"?

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