Wickr

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Wickr Inc.
TypeSubsidiary
IndustrySecure instant messaging
Founded2012 (2012)
FounderDr. Robert Statica, Kara Coppa, Christopher Howell, Nico Sell, York Sell
Headquarters
New York
,
United States
Key people
  • Joel Wallenstrom (CEO)
  • Chris Lalonde (COO)
  • Chris Howell (CTO)
ParentAmazon Web Services
Websitewww.wickr.com

Wickr is an American software company based in New York City.[1] The company is best known for its instant messenger application of the same name. The Wickr instant messaging apps allow users to exchange end-to-end encrypted and content-expiring messages, including photos, videos, and file attachments. The software is available for the iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems. On June 25, 2021, Wickr was acquired by Amazon Web Services.[2]

History[edit]

Wickr was founded in 2012 by a group of security experts and privacy advocates.[3] Nico Sell served as the company's CEO until May 2015 when she became the co-chairman of Wickr and CEO of Wickr Foundation, the newly launched nonprofit whose seed funding was provided by the company.[4] Mark Fields, who previously led CME's Strategic Investment Group, became the company's CEO.[5] He served in that position until November 2016, when he was replaced by Joel Wallenstrom, co-founder of iSec Partners, becoming the company's CEO and President.[6][7]

Apps[edit]

Wickr Me
Developer(s)Wickr Inc.
Initial releaseJune 2012 (2012-06)
Stable release(s)
Android5.85.4[8] Edit this on Wikidata / 12 August 2021[9]
iOS5.85.5[10] Edit this on Wikidata / 17 August 2021[11]
Windows, macOS, Ubuntu5.85.9[12] Edit this on Wikidata / 5 August 2021
Operating systemWindows, macOS, Ubuntu, iOS, Android
TypeInstant Messaging
LicenseProprietary
Websitewww.wickr.com

Initially unveiled on iOS and later on Android, the Wickr Me app allows users to set an expiration time for their encrypted communications.[13] In December 2014, Wickr released a desktop version of its secure communications platform. The release of the desktop Wickr app coincided with introducing the ability to sync messages across multiple devices, including mobile phones, tablets, and computers.[14]

Since developing its first app, Wickr Me, the company has released Wickr Pro, Wickr RAM, and Wickr Enterprise. Wickr RAM was designed with the military in mind; the app stays secure even in “harshest environments.”[15] While Wickr Enterprise was created for companies with larger workforces to easily integrate into their organization's IT workflows.[16]

All communications on Wickr are encrypted locally on each device with a new key generated for each new message, meaning that no one except Wickr users has the keys to decipher their content. In addition to encrypting user data and conversations, Wickr strips metadata from all content transmitted through the network.[17]

Since its launch, Wickr has gone through regular security audits by prominent information security organizations, which verified Wickr's code, security and policies.[18] Wickr has also launched a "bug bounty program" that offers a reward to hackers who can find a vulnerability in the app.[19]

On January 5, 2015, the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Wickr a score of 5 out of 7 points on their "Secure Messaging Scorecard".[20] It received points for having communications encrypted in transit, having communications encrypted with keys the provider didn't have access to (end-to-end encryption), making it possible for users to independently verify their correspondent's identities, having past communications secure if the keys were stolen (forward secrecy), and having completed a recent independent security audit. It was missing points because its source code was not open to independent review (open source), and because its security design was not well-documented.[20] In 2015, Wickr published a white paper outlining the encryption protocol that they use for end-to-end encryption.[21]

In 2015, the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced that Wickr, among only nine companies earned stars in every applicable category for its effort to protect user privacy: “We commend Wickr for its strong stance regarding user rights, transparency, and privacy.”[22]

In December 2016, Wickr announced Wickr Professional, a new business collaboration and communication product designed to couple the functionality of tools like Slack with end-to-end encryption and ephemerality.[23]

In February 2017, Wickr opened one of its crypto protocols for public review on GitHub and published a paper “The Wickr Messaging Protocol” as an aid to those who wish to review the source code.[24][25][26] At the time of its publication, the crypto protocol was only used in the company's enterprise product, Wickr Professional.[25] The company said that its consumer product, Wickr Messenger, still uses another protocol, and that they intend to replace this protocol with the one that they published.[25]

In early 2020, Wickr RAM was included in a review by the NSA of secure communication & collaboration platforms. Wickr RAM was the only app that was found to meet every single criterion that was assessed.[27]

According to the Washington Post, Wickr markets itself to government agencies. Government transparency advocates note that Maryland governor Larry Hogan's use of Wickr destroys government records before any determination of whether they should be public can be made, under the Freedom of Information Act and state law.[28]

Funding[edit]

In March 2014, Wickr announced its Series A funding round of $9 million led by Gilman Louie of Alsop Louie Partners. The series also included investments from Juniper Networks and the Knight Foundation.[29]

In June 2014, Wickr announced its Series B funding round of $30 million led by Breyer Capital, including CME Group and Wargaming.[30]

On 12 October 2021, a Vice Motherboard article revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had invested $1.6 million into Wickr via the CIA's shell company In-Q-Tel.[31]

Gilman Louie is the former CEO of In-Q-Tel, and other investors, including Richard Clarke and Michael Wertheimer, also have close ties to the U.S. intelligence and national security communities. It is also known that Erik Prince, the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater, is one of the principal investors.[32]

Law Enforcement[edit]

The FBI successfully accessed a Wickr user account locked by facial recognition by forcing them to unlock it.[33] The case involved pursuing suspects who use Wickr to trade in child pornography [34]

Wickr Foundation[edit]

Wickr Foundation is a non-profit founded by Wickr founder Nico Sell.[35][36][37][38][39]

The foundation operates a social-impact venture fund with a global mission to advance the Private Web and transform how society uses the Internet.[40] In addition to educating the public on privacy and information security, Wickr Foundation is focused on incubating and investing in ideas that revolutionize user control and empower data ownership.[41][42]

The foundation is dedicated to providing information security and privacy training to human rights activists, policy-makers, children, and journalists, and leads several initiatives to raise global awareness on privacy and encourage the development of security-enhancing technologies.[43][44][41][45]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ MacMillan, Douglas (June 25, 2014). "A startup looks for business in secrecy". Wall Street Journal.
  2. ^ "AWS has acquired encrypted messaging service Wickr". TechCrunch. Retrieved June 25, 2021.
  3. ^ Perlroth, Nicole (June 27, 2012). "An app that encrypts, shreds, hashes and salts". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Lunden, Ingrid (May 6, 2015). "Encrypted Chat App Wickr Creates New Non-Profit Arm". TechCrunch.
  5. ^ Perlroth, Nicole (May 6, 2015). "Wickr adds a new chief executive and a nonprofit". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Pfeifle, Sam (November 6, 2016). "New Wickr CEO looks to build on ephemeral messaging". iapp.org. The International Association of Privacy Professionals. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  7. ^ Wallenstrom, Joel (November 6, 2016). "Wickr – Making Ephemerality & Encryption a New Norm". wickr.com. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  8. ^ https://www.apkmirror.com/apk/wickr-inc/wickr/.
  9. ^ "Wickr Me – Private Messenger - Apps on Google Play". play.google.com. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  10. ^ https://apps.apple.com/app/wickr-me-private-messenger/id528962154.
  11. ^ "Wickr Me - Private Messenger". App Store. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  12. ^ https://me-download.wickr.com/#/version/me.
  13. ^ Sier, Jessica (May 29, 2015). "Apps to keep your messages secret in the data retention age". Australian Financial Review.
  14. ^ Scharr, Jill (December 4, 2014). "Wickr launches desktop private messaging application". TechCrunch.
  15. ^ "Secure Collaboration Beyond the Team | Wickr RAM". Wickr. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  16. ^ "Wickr Enterprise". Wickr. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  17. ^ Thompson, Cadie (February 6, 2014). "Snapchat rival hopes to pounce on security breach". CNBC.
  18. ^ Franceschi Bicchiera, Lorenzo (March 4, 2013). "Can the snapshot for grownups save you from spies?". Mashable.
  19. ^ Kirk, Jeremy (January 15, 2014). "Encrypted messaging startup Wickr offers 100k bug bounty". PC World.
  20. ^ a b "Secure Messaging Scorecard. Which apps and tools actually keep your messages safe?". Electronic Frontier Foundation. January 5, 2015. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  21. ^ "Wickr Messaging Protocol" (PDF) (Whitepaper). Wickr Inc. 2015. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  22. ^ "Who Has Your Back". The Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
  23. ^ Greenberg, Andy (December 6, 2016). "This App Wants to Be Your Encrypted, Self-Destructing Slack". Wired. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  24. ^ Conger, Kate (February 15, 2017). "Encrypted chat app Wickr opens code for public review". TechCrunch.
  25. ^ a b c Eddy, Max (February 15, 2017). "Wickr Releases Crypto Protocol on GitHub". PCMag.
  26. ^ Wallenstrom, Joel (February 15, 2017). "Wickr's Core Crypto Goes Public". Wickr Blog.
  27. ^ "Compare Wickr RAM". Wickr. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  28. ^ "Md. Gov. Larry Hogan's messages to state employees self-destruct in 24 hours". The Washington Post.
  29. ^ Fried, Ina (March 3, 2014). "Wickr secures $9 million to fund its privacy-focused messaging service". Recode.
  30. ^ Finkle, Jim (June 26, 2014). "Wickr raises $30 million; investors include CME Group, Wargaming". Reuters.
  31. ^ "CIA Funding Arm Gave Encrypted App Wickr $1.6 Million - VICE". www.vice.com. Retrieved October 13, 2021.
  32. ^ Winter, Jana; Groll, Elias (September 14, 2017). "Why Is Erik Prince Backing a Secure Communications Company?". Foreign Policy. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  33. ^ "Search Warrant". July 13, 2022. Retrieved July 22, 2022.
  34. ^ "FBI Successfully Forced a Criminal Suspect to Unlock His Wickr Account with His Face". July 21, 2022.
  35. ^ Fried, Ina (May 6, 2015). "Wickr Splits in Two, With Founder Nico Sell to Head New Nonprofit Venture". re/code.
  36. ^ Viebeck, Elise (May 6, 2015). "Wickr spins off non-profit to promote encrypted messaging". The Hill.
  37. ^ Perlroth, Nicole (May 6, 2015). "Wickr Adds a New Chief Executive and a Nonprofit". The New York Times.
  38. ^ Lunden, Ingrid (May 6, 2015). "Encrypted Chat App Wickr Creates New Non-Profit Arm, Nico Sell Steps Down As CEO To Lead It". Tech Crunch.
  39. ^ "Wickr debuts non-profit to promote a free and open Web". Vator News. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  40. ^ Shieber, Jonathan, TechCrunch (May 23, 2016). "Wickr Foundation invests in Whistler, an app dedicated to helping activists and citizen reporters". Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  41. ^ a b Franklin-Wallis, WIRED UK, Oliver (May 27, 2016). "Wickr Foundation announces Whistler, an encrypted app for whistleblowers". Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  42. ^ Sell, Nico (July 13, 2016). "Digital toxic waste (or why metadata shouldn't live forever)". TechCrunch. TechCrunch. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  43. ^ Vinton, Kate (March 10, 2015). "The Messaging App That Fights Dictators". Forbes.
  44. ^ Reader, Ruth. "Ephemeral messaging app Wickr targets activists and enterprises as the company splits in two". VentureBeat. VentureBeat. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  45. ^ Sell, Nico (September 21, 2016). "Kids need to reclaim their data and security... especially at school". TechCrunch. TechCrunch. Retrieved September 23, 2016.

External links[edit]