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[liberationtech] Why Skype (real-time) is losing out to WeChat (async)

Eric S Johnson crates at oneotaslopes.org
Tue Dec 25 22:49:50 PST 2012


> in India with the Tibetan community there, I have seen Skype, on mobiles
> at least, almost thoroughly replaced by WeChat, a WhatsApp/Kakao clone
> made by TenCent, the same Chinese company who created QQ. To my personal
> horror, we have gone from a somewhat secure Skype with a questionable
> backdoor policy, to a non-https, China-hosted service who is a known
> collaborator with the Chinese government.

I do a lot of cybersec trainings for activists. I take a lot of flak from
crypto specialists for not deterring people from using Skype. My response
isn't "Skype is safe"; it's, "show me the beef." We don't need to get into
the "is Skype safe?" conversation here (we all agree that we are less able
to prove its safety than we are OTR's, and Microsoft has a record of
cooperating with (at least US) LEAs); my point is, I find we're only
successful getting folks to change their habits when we can provide evidence
(which they believe) that their old habit's unsafe. I haven't been able to
do that with Skype, because Skype's insecurity is basically theoretical (for
developing-worlds' activists' use cases).

But the circumstantial evidence demonstrating WeChat's insecurity is much
stronger ... viz. this super piece by John Kennedy:
http://www.scmp.com/comment/blogs/article/1083025/hu-jia-explains-why-mobile
-apps-make-activism-spooky

Nathan, you've doubtless seen this article. What do your Tibetan friends say
about this? "We don't care if they're monitoring our WeChat use--we're out
of their reach?" ... or "what's good enough for Hu Jia is good enough for
us" ... or "WeChat's convenience advantages outweigh its known security"
(i.e. security isn't a sine qua non for them) ...

Best,
Eric




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