A few weeks ago, resilient DC journalists reported that fearful White House officials were using a private messaging app to communicate with each other in the Trump administration. We’re now reading reports that the secure app in question is Confide. And you know what? It’s actually a very slick app.
Super secure messaging apps always seemed like a great idea, especially in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations. However, there’s always been some dissonance between the obvious benefits of encrypted messages and the smooth convenience of using your phone’s built-in tools. Apple’s Messages and Google Hangouts are easy to use because they’re right there. Venturing beyond any phone’s default SMS application means you have to silo your communications off into a slightly different ecosystem. It’s good for security, but a struggle for your penchant for laziness.
If you work in Trump’s White House, however, it’s surely a worthwhile tradeoff. On one hand, you have a boss who’s been (perhaps generously) described as a “wide-set dingus” with a tenuous grasp on reality and a tendency to muzzle leakers. On the other, you’ve got a country to run and your place in anywhere-but-hell to protect. Those lofty tasks require the ability to communicate with colleagues and loved ones alike, which, according to recent reports, have turned some White House officials to use Confide.
That said, it’s unclear exactly how Confide protects the information being sent through its tubes. Security experts have some doubts about how secure Confide actually is, based on its use of OpenSSL protocol, although we can’t truly know how vulnerable the system is until some hacker breaks into it. The same could be said for a lot of messaging apps.
Although I’m a fan of secure communication, alternative apps like Signal and WhatsApp have always seemed off-putting since you had to do all your communications in the app—but that’s where Confide comes out ahead. At the same time, Confide is a closed source app so, unlike Signal, nobody knows how it actually works.
Founded by serial entrepreneurs Howard Lerman and Jon Brod, the app promises “confidential” messaging capabilities and eclipses competitors like Signal (Snowden’s secure messaging app of choice) in compatibility with existing messaging services. Confide has an iMessage app that lets you crank out highly classified intelligence—or anything else—through Apple’s native text messaging service. It even has an Apple Watch app that lets you accomplish the same feat if you’re an asshole who uses an Apple Watch to talk to your friends. You can also use Confide through a desktop app. All of the options prevent people from taking screenshots of your super duper secret stuff.
What I really like about Confide, however, is the basic delivery of for-your-eyes-only information. Instead of blasting you with a whole block of text that could be photographed or read by a bystander, the app makes you scroll, revealing only a line at a time. When you’re done, the message gets deleted so that the only record of its existence lives in your heart and mind. It’s like Snapchat, but more spy-friendly.
All this might seem silly when you’re just trying to pick a bar for happy hour with your friends. But if your line of work involves keeping certain bits of information confidential, the benefit of a secure and ephemeral messaging service seems obvious. If your line of work involves working in the White House with a possibly demented sack of trembling orange flesh who can’t believe that being president is actually a hard job, you surely need all the help you can get. Confide seems to be the solution for America’s political elite these days, and frankly, I’m sold on the technology, too.
Update: This post has been updated to include specifics on what we do and do not know about the security features of Confide.