Moxie Marlinspike, founder and CEO of popular encrypted messaging service Signal decides to step down. Brian Acton, Executive chairman, and WhatsApp co-founder will serve as the interim CEO while the search for a replacement is on.
Marlinspike in a blog post said, “In other words, after a decade or more, it’s difficult to overstate how important Signal is to me, but I now feel very comfortable replacing myself as CEO based on the team we have, and also believe that it is an important step for expanding on Signal’s success.”
Signal has been around since July 2014, with more than 40 million monthly users. The platform witnessed a surge in its popularity after January 2021 when Meta-owned WhatsApp enacted a controversial policy change. Leading to a privacy backlash over the nature of personal information shared with its parent company.
The company has also witnessed the downsides with its employees raising concerns over the fallout stemming from potential misuse of the service by malicious actors. This lead to ongoing debates about weakening encryption protections to facilitate law enforcement investigations.
Yet another decision that made matters a bit complicated for the company was the decision to integrate MobileCoin. The idea was to introduce an “encrypted-focused cryptocurrency” into the app to facilitate peer-to-peer payments. Many felt the shift could potentially put private messaging at risk by attracting regulatory scrutiny and an open invitation for criminals to exploit the platform to their benefit.
According to Facebook’s former chief security officer, “Signal and WhatsApp have effectively protected end-to-end encryption from multiple legal attacks at the state and federal level.”
He further added, “But the addition of pseudo-anonymous money transfer functions greatly increases their legal attack surface, while creating the possibility of real-life harms (extortion, drug sales, CSAM sales) that will harm them in court, legislatures and public opinion.”
Bruce Schneier, a security researcher shared similar views about Signal when they started testing support for the MobileCoin payments. He said, “Secure communications and secure transactions can be separate apps, even separate apps from the same organization. End-to-end encryption is already at risk. Combining it with a cryptocurrency means that the whole system dies if any part dies.”
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