Safe communication with Tox

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Vincent Guérault, 123RF

Vincent Guérault, 123RF

Secure Phone

With Tox, you can chat and phone like you do with Skype, but securely, with encrypted point-to-point communication and open source software.

Thanks to Edward Snowden, users have become aware of global intelligence tapping into private communication. The revelations related to the NSA affair may not have exactly ended the tapping of communications and user data, but more and more users now think they should do something to protect their privacy. The WhatsApp alternative Threema, for example, won a lot of users in a short time for better protecting their communication.

A huge player in modern communication – apart from newcomers like WhatsApp and Threema – is the classic Skype, for which Microsoft paid $8.5 million in 2011. WhatsApp is still a relatively recent phenomenon, but Skype has long been criticized for secretly reading and analyzing user data.

In 2013, information went public that Microsoft in general and Skype specifically were involved in the NSA Prism scandal. Since then, data-aware users should assume that communication over Skype is going to spied on by unscrupulous intelligence agencies that will collect and evaluate user data.

Tox in, Skype out

An alternative for Skype has meanwhile emerged. Its name is Tox [1], and it is downloadable for all major platforms [2]. Tox clients are available not only for Linux but also for Mac OS X, Windows, and mobile devices, including both Android and iOS [3].

As with Skype, you can use the Tox app to chat using your keyboard, place VoIP calls, and even have a video conference. Tox provides these features with an important added value: All transmitted information is encrypted.

When a Tox user logs on to client, the client connects not with a central server but with a distributed peer-to-peer network. To communicate, Tox users need to share their Tox IDs, which they use to identify themselves over the Internet.

Although users could share the IDs by email, if you are going to go to lengths to protect your privacy, it makes more sense to share them in an analog fashion, that is, on pieces of paper.

Value-Added Client

Tox provides various clients for Linux: µTox (also known as uTox), Venom, qTox, and Toxic provide essentially the same functions. They differ primarily in the environment they're ideally suited for (Table 1). Whereas Venom is based on Gtk+, qTox is a Qt client. Purists are more likely to use the Toxic command-line client.

Table 1

Tox Clients at a Glance

µTox Lightweight client for every desktop
Toxic Tox client for the command line
qTox Client written using the Qt toolkit
Venom Client developed with Vala/Gtk+
Toxy Tox client for Windows using a Metro design
Poison Tox client for Mac OS X
Antox Tox client for Android
Antidote Tox client for iOS

In the article, I'll present the µTox graphical client and the command-line-based Toxic in more detail. I'll also take a look at Antox, the Tox client for Android devices.

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