is there a service like Slack or IRC that is as private as Signal?
February 2, 2017 8:24 PM   Subscribe

if you were a group of private individuals who wanted a discussion tool that was as easy to use Slack, but was as secure as Signal, what would you use?

my local group of friends are finding it frustrating to do all of their organizing via Facebook, as group threaded conversations are rather terrible and notifications of events are haphazard and unpredictable. A lot of us are fond of Slack and have tossed around the idea setting up our own Slack team or IRC server, and being able to use channels to organize different topics. However, we're also wary of the way a cloud-based service like Facebook or Slack could be susceptible to external requests for information.

As an alternative, I'm contemplating setting up a private, SSL-encrypted IRC server (maybe using IRCCloud as a chat client?) to host discussions, but am wary about a barrier to entry for non-technical users, as well as the responsibility of having to host the service myself. I was wondering if there were other services that provide group chat services but where the contents of the conversations themselves are encrypted and secured from anyone except those permitted into the community.

As an alternative, if a private IRC server is the way to go, what would you suggest for clients that are free (or low cost) and friendly enough for people who've gotten accustomed to Slack or Hipchat?
posted by bl1nk to Technology (15 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe one of these?

2 Slack replacements that can keep your group messages private

posted by bluecore at 8:59 PM on February 2, 2017

Check out, you can host a single instance yourself for all your friends, or you can each host your own instances. It has mobile clients, etc, and is fully secure and independent.
posted by jpeacock at 9:17 PM on February 2, 2017

On IRC, (mIRC, actually) I use Fish, which is a plugin that adds Blowfish encryption to IRC. You have different keys per channel vs per user (for private messages), and Blowfish has a pretty smart method of secure key exchange.

I use it on a public server, but it's not a server that relies on a lot of identity features like NickServ; if you have bots involved, they'll need the keys as well if they're going to parse the text sent by users, but some bot functions wouldn't need crypto.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:23 PM on February 2, 2017

This isn't a replacement for Slack, but in my experience, the majority of people who want to do what you want to do use WhatsApp, either as a single group, or as a main 'general' group with separate groups for specific events.
posted by Hartster at 2:46 AM on February 3, 2017

I've a group of people that are migrating from Slack to a Signal group chat (we don't have anything particularly private, mostly just whining about work and sharing pictures of our cats and kids, and think that more Signal traffic is a fundamental good). Any reason to not just use a Signal group?
posted by straw at 6:10 AM on February 3, 2017

If you pay for slack you can set the retention policy to be as short as 1 day. Depending on your threat model, this might not be significantly worse than IRC over an SSL or other secure connection, since the data is stored on slack's servers for only a brief time, and is encrypted in transit. This restrict's slack's ability to respond to subpoenas after the fact, since they simply don't have any data except the very recent stuff. Based on things I've heard from slack engineers, server-side search, which is slack's killer feature, is apparently the sticking point for full end-to-end encryption, but is something they're working on.
posted by caek at 6:21 AM on February 3, 2017

posted by tracert at 9:32 AM on February 3, 2017

I believe you are looking for Semaphor.
posted by Sleddog_Afterburn at 9:33 AM on February 3, 2017

There is also Telegram.
posted by yoga at 10:33 AM on February 3, 2017

posted by busybee at 11:32 AM on February 3, 2017

Also came here to recommend Semaphor.
posted by third word on a random page at 1:46 PM on February 3, 2017

Zulip! It's a free and open-source group chat client that IMO is far superior to Slack (having used Zulip for 4 years and Slack for 1). You can set up your own private, hosted Zulip instance. I don't know much about Zulip's security, but I know they hired many top engineers, and they were acquired by Dropbox, so their security is probably decent.
posted by glass origami robot at 7:45 PM on February 3, 2017 (based on is the only slack-like platform that has both end-to-end encryption and is open source and decentralized (I.e. you can choose a server or run your own and still communicate with everyone). WhatsApp and Semaphore are closed-source which means you need to trust them to not spy on you. Telegram is widely considered to be not trustworthy by the cryptography community.
posted by criticalbeaver at 12:20 AM on February 4, 2017

thanks, everyone. I marked as best answer the platforms that I'm currently evaluating. Zulip looks like a good self-hosted chat tool, but I think we want more than just SSL security for our conversations.

My main hesitation on WhatsApp and Signal group chats are that we also want shared administration\moderation of the community as opposed to having it just be a bunch of individually maintained groups.
posted by bl1nk at 8:07 AM on February 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

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