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 communication with emails may not work for the situation.

  • Some of the telecommunications companies may try to monitor or intercept the calls going through their network.

  • Skype is not a good solution 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 (only 1:1) 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.

For a group call to be as secure as possible, TLS/HTTPS needs to be implemented.

We should also warn our clients that, since group video calls are not end-to-end encrypted, their security depends on the entity that is hosting the service, so we should recommend primarily services that are hosted by trusted partners, or self-hosted.

  • Jitsi Meet is a video conference browser-based option. It was developed by the same team of Jitsi, the desktop voice and messaging client. The main difference is you don’t need to install a client for your computer, since you will connect using your browser to a trusted partner Jitsi Meet server. You can try this solution simply by going to the Jitsi Meet official website.

    Since this service is not end-to-end encrypted, we should recommend an instance of Jitsi Meet hosted by a trusted partner. For example:

    If the client has tech capacities, they can also choose to self-host a Jitsi Meet instance. Instructions for installing Jitsi Meet in a server can be found here.

  • Wire - For video calls with fewer than 10 participants, we can recommend Wire. Group video calls on Wire are not encrypted, but the audio and video quality is pretty good and stable. Participants can connect through the mobile or desktop app.
  • Other server-trusting proprietary solutions for multi-party calls include appear.in, talky.io, GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Google Hangouts.

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

Greenhost’s Eclips.is platform has a pre-configured setup to launch a Meet Jitsi instance on their cloud.

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 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