IM services start to block unencrypted chats

XMPP upgrade is rolling out now

A host of instant messaging services will begin refusing unencrypted connections from today under a pledge to harden the extensible messaging and presence protocol (XMPP).

Developers pledged in 2012 to begin testing client-to-server and server-to-server encryption for XMPP as of January in a move heralded as an initial step to secure the communications protocol against crims and government spies.

The XMPP Standard Foundation initiative covered 70 providers but could not be enforced.

Peter Saint-Andre, the technologist behind the initiative, welcomed the go live date.

"Today, a large number of services on the public XMPP network permanently turned on mandatory encryption for client-to-server and server-to-server connections," Saiont-Andre said. "This is the first step toward making the XMPP network more secure for all users."

Signatory company Prosodical said the non-binding pledge was a necessary precondition to other security improvements.

"While XMPP is an open distributed network, obviously no single entity can mandate encryption for the whole network – but as a group we are moving in the right direction," the company said in a post.

"This commitment to encrypted connections is only the first step toward more secure communication using XMPP, and does not obviate the need for technologies supporting end-to-end encryption such as Off-the-Record Messaging, strong authentication, channel binding, secure DNS, server identity checking, and secure service delegation."

The upgrade would be sufficient to beat passive eavesdropping and followed moves by the boarder tech industry to lock down communications and move away from the CA model in the wake of the National Security Agency snooping disclosures.

The similar Reset the Net iniative was launched by a coalition of privacy pundits to push out SSL, end-to-end crypto, perfect forward secrecy and HTTP strict transport security across the web.

Users can check the security of xmpp services here.

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