Macintosh security software developer Intego on Thursday released ChatBarrier, a new tool that encrypts text messages sent using Apple’s iChat instant messaging software. ChatBarrier X3 uses 512-bit encryption to help protect iChat text messages from prying eyes — useful for companies or individuals that use iChat to exchange sensitive information.
iChat messages are sent in plain text over AOL Instant Messenger servers, which puts into question the security of messages sent using the service, according to Intego — a hacker with a packet sniffer could potentially intercept the message, for example. ChatBarrier X3 addresses this issue by using a stream cipher to encrypt messages. The software depends on both the sender and receiver having ChatBarrier X3 installed.
ChatBarrier X3 adds a button to the iChat interface; clicking the button attempts to initiate a secure exchange with the message’s receiver. Once the connection is made, a padlock icon indicates that the communication is secure. Intego said there’s no message lag when ChatBarrier X3 is being used. ChatBarrier X3 operates over local area networks (LANs) via Rendezvous and over AIM networks with iChat.
In an interview with MacCentral, Intego CEO Laurent Marteau explained that ChatBarrier X3 works specifically with iChat; other AIM clients are not supported. Also, the software’s encryption is specific to text-based messaging only; video and audio chat remains unencrypted, although ChatBarrier enables iChat to send both encrypted and non-encrypted messages with different users simultaneously.
ChatBarrier X3 costs US$39.95 for one license plus a free license. Ten-user and site license packages are available for US$99.95 and $999.95 respectively. System requirements call for Mac OS X v10.2.3 or later and iChat.