Cloud Storage Firm Mega Launches Encrypted Video Calling to Take on Skype

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Mega, the encrypted cloud storage provider launched by Kim Dotcom, has released its latest venture, a browser-based end-to-end encrypted audio and video chat service, called MegaChat.

Mega has been teasing its secure chat service since last year. In December, Dotcom said the company planned to launch the service soon, promising to provide a more secure way to chat and share files via a browser.

Determined to take market share directly from Skype, MegaChat users made more than 500,000 encrypted video calls in the first hour since its launch, Dotcom said on Twitter on Thursday.

Released in beta, MegaChat initially will offer video calling, with text chat and video conferencing to follow, Dotcom said.

According to Engadget, after creating an account with Mega, you log in via the web and hit the ‘Conversations’ icon on the left side. Contacts must have a Mega account. The interface is simple and doesn’t offer much in terms of features, but it is free.

TechCrunch had a few issues with quality when using MegaChat video calling, mostly connection issues and pop-up notifications not showing up. When the service worked, the quality was “on par with Skype,” the report said.

Mega currently has 15 million registered users, which could bring rapid adoption of the free encrypted chat service. Dotcom predicts that MegaChat could “elevate [Mega] to 100+ million users by the end of 2015.”

Recently leaked NSA documents showed that the agency had full access to voice, video, text messaging and file sharing from targeted individuals over Skype.

This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has come under fire for its cooperating with authorities. In October 2013, separate documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed that Microsoft provided the FBI with easier backdoor access to SkyDrive, its cloud storage service.

Mega is hoping that these allegations against Microsoft are enough for users to switch to its MegaChat service.

And Mega isn’t the only one who has seen an opportunity in encrypted chat. The German postal service has seen demand for an encrypted chat app. Deutsche Post launched a free secure messaging app for customers to send encrypted text messages, photos, and videos.

While Mega has upgraded its infrastructure and grown its team significantly since launching in 2013, browser-based encryption is not without its faults.

“When a website loads all the encryption code in a user’s browser from a remote server, it can change that code without the user’s knowledge,” a report by Forbes in 2013 said. “So Mega, or anyone else who gains control of the Mega server sending the crypto algorithms, can turn off that encryption or steal the user’s private key, which would allow decryption of all past and future uploads.”

Dotcom is currently offering a bounty for anyone who finds a security bug.

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