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4/1/2014
07:35 AM
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Wickr Spreads Its 'Leave No Trace' Messaging

Privacy-conscious messaging technology now offered to other social media, messaging providers.

Wickr, the ultra-private messaging service, now is offering licenses for its security and privacy technology to other social media and messaging  providers.

The startup, which offers a free text, video, and picture messaging service for iOS and Android that "leave no trace" of the messages, hopes to spread its security and privacy features to the ecosystem while also generating revenue as well, says Nico Sell, co-founder and CEO of Wickr.

Sell says Wickr's architecture makes it easy to license different pieces of it. "In some cases, we're spreading the technology" to other networks and users, she says. "It also helps us grow the network."

The company earlier this month announced that it had raised more than $9 million in Series A funding, led by Alsop Louie, with investments from Juniper Networks and the Knight Foundation as well as various security and privacy experts.

Wickr is licensing its Timer, Friend Finder, Anti Spammer, Key Manager, Anonymizer, and Shredder features from its app. Sell says all discussions with potential customers are under NDA at this time, so she was unable to name any customers.

Among the key features Wickr offers is Timer, which lets data self-destruct so that text messages disappear and are not stored anywhere after a specific timeframe; and its Key management approach for encrypting messaging, where each message a user writes uses a different key, and Wickr does not have those keys. It also offers anonymization that deletes any metadata, for instance, and a shred feature that ensures that anything deleted from the user's device is completely wiped from it.

The goal of Wickr is to “leave no trace,” and to by default ensure that online communications are not traceable by governments, corporations, or bad guys, according to the company's mission.

Mark Weinstein, founder and CEO of Sgrouples, a privacy-oriented social network that lets members form private groups and doesn't track or share information on its members, says Wickr's licensing is a good strategic move. "I am a strong advocate for privacy, and I like Wickr's philosophy and products, especially for themselves as a unique service provider," he says. "But when we look at the issue of another company licensing Wickr's technology, it doesn't appear to help the licensing company develop their own revenue model. Rather, it makes them dependent on Wickr, both for privacy and for revenue, charging their members for the special features Wickr offers."

Nearly 90 percent of consumers recently surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers say they avoid doing business with companies they feel don't protect their online privacy. But few consumers thus far have been scrambling for encrypted, privacy-conscious messaging services, even in the wake of the NSA controversy. Revelations over the past year of the National Security Agency's widespread surveillance practices have put startups like Wickr and Silent Circle in the spotlight as alternative private messaging services. Their technologies are growing in popularity among privacy advocates and security experts.

Weinstein says he doesn't see many consumers today worried enough about government spying to go with more ultra-secure messaging options. "The great majority of law-abiding citizens are simply consumers who want to be respected and served to. While in general consumers don't want the NSA snooping on their conversations, they also want convenience and choice. They don't appear to want to be tied up in tight-lip bound security systems."

Among the possible apps and services Wickr may be adding: other messaging, calling, and gaming apps. "Our security solutions address the most recent social media customer breaches. These features are needed by all messaging, calling, gaming, and dating apps," says Robert Statica, co-founder and CTO of Wickr.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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Kelly Jackson Higgins
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Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
4/11/2014 | 7:31:45 AM
More on Wickr's revenue-sharing for partners
Here are more details on Wickr's revenue-generation options for partners: It offers revenue generating features to its partners via calling/video calling, mail, and conference calling/group chat. Wickr's Nico Sell says the price for this is determined by the partner, and they split the revenue with Wickr.

 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Moderator
4/8/2014 | 4:23:03 PM
Re: Well let's be honest here...
All of these secrecy technologies demand trust. And if you really want security, you should not rely on trust. Even with open source code, most potential users could not determine whether the code was sound. The only conclusion that makes sense to me is not to play. If it's secret, don't enter it into a computer.
Randy Naramore
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Randy Naramore,
User Rank: Ninja
4/1/2014 | 3:20:03 PM
Re: Well let's be honest here...
I doubt that this app is completely untraceable, it might be for the novice user but for the experienced forensic examiner it will leave some kind of trace elements. It might be that this technology is too new to know for sure if it is leaving evidence or not. Time will tell. Just a thought.
Sara Peters
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Sara Peters,
User Rank: Author
4/1/2014 | 10:30:18 AM
Re: Well let's be honest here...
@Kelly  Ah yes, convenience and user-friendliness: the banes of many end-user security tools existences.
Kelly Jackson Higgins
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Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
4/1/2014 | 10:26:23 AM
Re: Well let's be honest here...
No data yet that I'm aware of. There's still the issue of convenience, user-friendliness and scope for these types of apps.
Sara Peters
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Sara Peters,
User Rank: Author
4/1/2014 | 10:25:10 AM
Re: Well let's be honest here...
@Kelly  Well I'm delighted that more people are starting to use them for non-sexting purposes as well. I wonder what percentage of people it is, though. Are there any figures out about that? I'm guessing that the percentage is very, verrrry low.
Kelly Jackson Higgins
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Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
4/1/2014 | 10:20:56 AM
Re: Well let's be honest here...
Ha! If only some politicians had used self-destructing messages in their "selfies" ... But in all seriousness, security and privacy-conscious folks are starting to use these types of services, which came on the scene before the NSA document leaks by Snowden. 
Sara Peters
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Sara Peters,
User Rank: Author
4/1/2014 | 10:18:08 AM
Well let's be honest here...
...at the end of the day, this is really all about sexting, isn't it? Oh sure, there are many other excellent reasons to make messages private and make them self-destruct shortly thereafter, but once you say that this also applies to photos... Well all I can say is that I'm guessing that most people won't be using these tools to cause their PG-rated selfies or some amazing Egyptian artifact they just dug up or a picture of a clock to inform their criminal partners when to meet up like they did in The Wire to self-destruct.
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