Elon Musk managed to deliver the new security feature on his self-imposed deadline, but seemingly at the cost of quality.
by Lauren Leffer
Twitter did it. The company met a deadline and released something on the promised date under Elon Musk’s leadership. The social media platform put out its first-ever encrypted messaging option late on Wednesday night, just under the wire. Yet in the mad dash to deliver, the site seems to have made some confusing compromises, as outlined in a Twitter blogpost.
For online privacy writ large it’s undoubtedly a good thing. But Twitter’s version comes with some major caveats. For one, it is only available to “verified” users, meaning those with access are almost entirely people willing to pay $8 a month for Twitter Blue. Both parties in an encrypted Twitter exchange need to be verified for the feature to work.
Second, it is “opt-in,” which means users have to consciously choose encryption every time. That’s verses the security gold standard of default encryption. Facebook/Meta, for instance, faced years of flack from privacy experts over its own opt-in Messenger end-to-end encryption, which only recently became the default setting.
Then there’s the user limitations. Twitter’s version of secured DMs only allows for the transmission of text. Picture and other media messages cannot currently be encrypted on the platform. Only one-on-one conversations are covered, group messages aren’t. There’s no avenue for reporting abusive encrypted messages.
Beyond the user-facing let downs, on the back-end, there are additional weak spots in Twitter’s new security setting. To the company’s credit, it is upfront that its first stab at encrypted DMs isn’t perfect.
“When it comes to Direct Messages, the standard should be, if someone puts a gun to our heads, we still can’t access your messages,” the Wednesday blogpost reads, quoting a previous tweet from Musk. “We’re not quite there yet,” it continues.
As Twitter points out in its own statement, its version of encryption doesn’t necessarily protect against “man-in-the-middle” attacks. This means a technically competent bad actor or Twitter itself could theoretically intercept messages without the knowledge of the sender.
Read the full article at Gizmodo.
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Published on May 11, 2023