Skype adds end-to-end encryption to its latest Insider build

Conversations are secured using the same protocol behind WhatsApp and Facebook

Skype for Business logo

Microsoft has said it will begin testing a new end-to-end encryption feature on Skype conversations, ensuring that only the sender and recipient are able to read the content of messages.

The feature, dubbed "Private Conversations", is currently in its early stage but will be available to users signed up to the Skype Insider build version 8.13.76.8, and will run on Windows, Mac, Linux, as well as iOS and Android.

Currently, only text, files and audio messages will be covered by end-to-end encryption, not video or audio calls. It will also only work if your chatting with another user already on the Skype Insider build.

Microsoft collaborated with encryption app provider Signal to create the feature, which is based on the industry standard Signal Protocol, the same used by WhatsApp, Google and Facebook to encrypt their messaging apps.

There are a few restrictions to the new feature that Microsoft will need smooth out before its full release. Currently, you're unable to switch on end-to-end encryption when in an existing chat, and you need to send a request to a contact first before starting a secure conversation.

Skype already runs encryption across its applications, however, end-to-end encryption is considered far more secure than traditional methods. Its main purpose is to ensure that the content of messages is only able to be read by the sender and recipient, which includes preventing Skype from looking at data.

The UK government recently criticised the use of end-to-end encryption on chat applications, which it says makes it more difficult for security services to root out criminal activity, comments that have since been labelled "deeply misguided" by the tech community.

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