Everyone, the media at least, seems to be raving about this new iOS application called Wickr. As many other articles noted it basically provides very secure communication amongst it’s users, complete with advanced capabilities like self-destructing messages based on user-defined policies (e.g., within 48 hours). Their key selling point is that it brings easy-to-use encryption to the masses. Even my 3 year old should have no problems using it… I’m all for this type of application and hope that it succeeds. It’ll be a tremendous boost for organizations mandating its use for sensitive inter-company communication as well as for non-technical people who are concerned about privacy.
Beyond those few small niches though, I unfortunately don’t see Wickr being a run-away success. One of the issues with its implementation is that you have to do everything within the Wickr secured “container”. Currently it offers text, video, and picture messaging however I don’t see the “average person” switching over to using this app for those capabilities instead of their favorite native applications. Further complicating it’s use is that you can only interact with people that have signed up for and regularly use the Wickr service. Once again I don’t see average person evangelizing this app to all their friends and family for those once-in-a-blue moon super-secret texts or pictures. Most of us have multiple email accounts, are part of several social networking sites, use two or three phone numbers and their associated voice mail, etc. The question we have to answer is “Does an ‘average person’ really want to deal with all the hassles of yet-another-communication-app?”
Ideally for this type of service to succeed Wickr would need to create some type of open API for developers to create apps that run within the Wickr container. But will developers come? And will users follow? Even better would be some type of external API that other apps could call to pass messages off to Wickr for it to handle … essentially just acting as a message handler right below any application in the communication stack. Of course this would require Wickr to run continuously in the background and most likely take a major hit on smartphone battery life. They are planning to release versions for several workstation OSs and this proxy model may work for those forthcoming products.
I am a bit disappointed in their marketing campaign though. It’s nice that that they mention the founders being a DefCon veteran, a security expert who deployed the first military IPS, an computer crime and forensics investigator for the State of New Jersey, and an IT professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology but personally I’d prefer the app created by super geeks that worked in the NSA crypto unit for the past 20 years. And what is it with New Jersey? Also their campaign has a slight inference to something we’d here from a crypto snake-oil salesman. As an example, their description in the App Store reads their “security is based on a proprietary, patent pending, Digital Security Bubble(TM) (DSB) algorithm that combines military grade and propriety encryption algorithms and does not rely on a key distribution center (KDC).” A yeah … my 3 year old can understand that. Plus that whole description is screaming security-through-obscurity … especially the “propriety” part.
Overall I wish Wickr luck and hope their actual security measures live up to what they are marketing, patenting, and trademarking (yeah,they really have a trademark for “Digital Security Bubble). They may be successful in specific niches however I don’t see them meeting their goals of bringing easy-to-use encryption to the masses unless they can figure out how to become solely a message handler and eschew the creator and consumer functions.
Here are some of the other articles we came across that you might be interested in.
- Free App Encrypts, Destroys Mobile Messages – DarkReading.com
- Wickr — An iPhone Encryption App a 3-Year-Old Can Use – CNet.com
- Wickr Lets Your iPhone Send Both Encrypted And Self-Destructing Messages – Forbes.com
Do you think the Wickr app will catch on? Let us know in the comments below. Today’s post pic is from iTunes.Apple.com. See ya!