MONTREAL, June 15, 2017 — Last year, Peerio’s CEO Vincent Drouin and CTO Florencia Herra-Vega made a bold decision: to rewrite their encrypted communication and file storage app from scratch. Today, after an entire year of experimentation and development, the brand new Peerio is available on desktop and mobile.
Most companies in Peerio’s position would have chosen a different trajectory. In 2014, the Montreal-based startup released a beloved app that Wired called “one of the most full-featured end-to-end encryption tools out there.” The product quickly gained high-profile users, including The New York Times journalists and The Washington Post tip line. A mobile version was released in 2015.
At this point, other companies would have dedicated all their resources to growing the user base and generating revenue, building a sales force and creating high profile marketing campaigns. Peerio, on the other hand, took a step back. After compiling user feedback and data on how people were actually engaging with the app, the team realized that their product fell short of Peerio’s founding mission: to offer privacy for everyone. The company decided to go back to the drawing board.
“It was risky to take time away from expanding the company,” said Drouin, Founder and CEO, “but our commitment to long term viability led us to the rewrite. When people trust us with their personal and professional communication, we need to dedicate resources to building a product that will grow with our users, and work how they work. We took everything we learned from the old app and made something much, much better.”
A New Way to Encrypt
The first version of Peerio was a pioneer in usable encryption, and its success stemmed from building an intuitive user interface on top of complicated cryptographic algorithms. However, the core design did not give developers the flexibility they needed to create new features.
“Building an encryption platform for frequent, heavy, and sustained use is a challenge,” said Herra-Vega, CTO. “Non-encrypted apps perform automatic actions based on the content of what people send, but Peerio can’t access anyone’s messages or files. We had to find creative ways to efficiently organize what we can’t read. Plus, we encrypt everything on top of carrying out all the same functions as other apps. Designing a secure environment that matches non-encrypted services in speed and usability took a lot of trial and error.”
In order to develop products that could truly replace all the unsecured platforms that consumers use, Peerio needed to invent a new way to encrypt. The company spent a year building an unprecedented encryption architecture referred to as; KegDB.
KegDB creates databases for users and conversations. This allows the app to quickly encrypt everything in a conversation at the same time, rather than encrypting each message individually—the time-consuming approach used by many encryption technologies.
KegDB also addresses a quandary posed by Peerio’s freemium pricing model. Unlike services like WhatsApp, Google Gmail and Facebook Messenger, which keep their services free by selling data from users’ content to advertisers, Peerio funds its free app through paid value-added services designed specifically for enterprises and organizations.
Enterprises have administrative needs that are difficult to integrate into traditional end-to-end encryption. When files are individually encrypted, it’s very challenging to grant and revoke access—something indispensable for teams that need to add manage dynamic organizations. For convenience, most organizations forgo end-to-end encryption and centralize access to all communication under the control of an administrator, which compromises security.
KegDB groups communication between users into databases, each with its own unique encrypted access and sharing permission. The system has the capacity to securely add and remove users from encrypted conversations and keep track of membership changes. KegDB is a big step towards Peerio’s vision of intuitive, secure technology that supports both individual users and busy organizations.
In the future, KegDB will enable Peerio to easily create new end-to-end encrypted add-ons and features. One project is to create tools that meet the compliance requirements of specific industries—for example, PIPEDA, HIPAA, and HITECH standards for storing medical records—but will actually exceed the digital security requirements to deter the cyber threats that exist today and in the future.
“We’re dedicated to prioritizing people’s needs, at work and in their lives,” said Drouin. “We want to build security tools that fit how people actually communicate, so that they never need to choose between convenience and security again.”
Key features of the new Peerio
- Default Encryption. Peerio automatically encrypts all messages and files right on the user’s device, so they’re secure wherever they go. Only the user has the keys. No one else, not even Peerio
- Heavy redundancy. Encrypted data is backed up and stored in three separate server facilities
- Fully portable. A Peerio account can be accessed from any desktop and mobile device
- Store and share encrypted files of any size. Peerio offers unlimited upload file sizes and storage, with speeds comparable to unencrypted file management
- Peerio intelligently manages poor connectivity by automatically pausing and resuming file uploads and downloads
- Peerio supports secure group and team chats up to an unlimited number of participants
- User Experience: Peerio is as fun and functional as the most popular communications apps on the market, but with advanced encryption technology that doesn’t impact the user’s experience
- Transparency: Peerio is open source and independently audited. We can be validated to be doing what we say we are doing at anytime
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