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Skype users can now choose to make their voice calls and text chats end-to-end encrypted. This is Microsoft catching up with other messaging apps, including Messenger, Telegram, and WhatsApp, which have offered end-to-end encryption for a while.
End-to-end encryption means that your chats are encrypted from one end to the other, ensuring eavesdroppers can’t intercept your messages or listen into your conversation. It has taken a while for Skype to offer the feature, but it’s better late than never.
Microsoft Launches Private Skype Conversations
Microsoft began testing end-to-end encrypted Skype chats in January, and the feature is now available to all users. You can use Skype’s Private Conversations on Skype for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux. But you will need to opt in as it isn’t the default.
Although Skype offers end to end encrypted chats and video calls, don't rely on it to secure your communications. If you want a truly private and secure video call or messaging, use Signal or Wire. There is nothing private when the service is operated by "cooperative" companies
— TNOMM (@Thenewsofmymind) August 21, 2018
There are some restrictions beyond the need to opt in. You can only maintain one Private Conversation at a time, which is rather limiting. And while you can switch that conversation to another device you’ll only see the messages sent on that device.
How to Start a Private Conversation in Skype
To start a Private Conversation in Skype, either go to the Compose menu or the profile of the person you want to contact. Then select “New Private Conversation”. The recipient will receive an invite to launch a Private Conversation, and will need to accept to proceed.
Once the invitation has been accepted, all voice calls, messages, and files will be encrypted from end-to-end, meaning only you and the person you’re chatting with can see them. However, messages aren’t automatically deleted when you end a Private Conversation.
Offering End-to-End Encryption as Default
It has taken Microsoft far too long to add end-to-end encryption, and even now it’s subject to some stifling restrictions. However, we suspect this is just the first step, and Microsoft will add end-to-end encryption to Skype as the default before too long.
In the meantime it might be worth checking out these open source messaging apps more secure than Skype. Or, if you want to learn more about encryption as a whole, read our primer detailing how encryption works and whether it’s really all that safe.