A client is looking for a secure alternative to call people; an at risk user is concerned about making calls which can be monitored or intercepted; a client uses Skype, Google Hangouts, or other commercial services for sensitive voice/video chat
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Recommendations on VoIP/video Chat Tools

Secure solutions for voice/video calls

Problem

  • Secure communications via email may not be possible or suitable in a specific situation.

  • Telecommunications companies may try to monitor or intercept calls going through their network.

  • Popular tools like Skype or Zoom are not advisable solutions for human right defenders at risk.

  • Depending on their threat model, other commercial services like Google Hangouts can also be contraindicated.


Solution

1:1 video calls

For end-to-end encrypted 1:1 voice and video calls, we can recommend:

  • Wire - an open source desktop and mobile app for end-to-end encrypted messaging (both 1:1 and group) and calls (both 1:1 and groups with fewer than 10 participants – see further information about the latter in the section on multi-party video calls below) that doesn’t need a telephone number to sign up.
  • Signal - an open source desktop and mobile app for end-to-end encrypted messaging (both 1:1 and group) and calls (only 1:1).

Multi-party video calls

Currently there is no solution for end-to-end encrypted group calls.

Since group video calls are not end-to-end encrypted, their security depends on TLS/HTTPS being properly implemented and the entity that is hosting the service, so in choosing a platform the user is trusting that platform with the confidentiality of their conversations. If they do not feel comfortable trusting another party with access to this information, then they need to explore self-hosting and finding a platform they do trust.

Multi-party video learning platforms

If the client is interested in hosting remote video learning, they can consider the open-source video platform BigBlueButton. There are some commercial providers that also offer hosting support if the client doesn’t have the technical capacity.

Voice calls

If video is not strictly necessary, and bandwidth is low, it is worth proposing multi-party audio calls, for example with Mumble, an open source, low-latency, high quality voice chat software that can be self-hosted in the client’s server.


Comments

Rocket.Chat - an open source fully featured Slack clone - has plugins for webrtc videobridging and OTR-encrypted chat conversations. It can be self-hosted as a standalone, or within a sandstorm.io instance, and could be more useful for organizations looking to consolidate Slack-style communications with a voice option.

If we consider other tools for voice and video call, we should use the Confidentiality-Integrity-Availability Framework to evaluate them and make sure that they include these features:

  • Cross-platform
  • End-to-End encrypted whenever possible
  • Documented
  • Easy to install
  • User-friendly
  • Containing user authentication
  • Open source
  • Hosted by trusted entities