Three encrypted Slack alternatives worth a look

Slack is not end-to-end encrypted. Here are some options that offer better security.

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It might come as a surprise that Slack, the ubiquitous collaboration tool that found success by slapping a slick GUI on top of IRC, is not end-to-end encrypted, creating a mounting pile of sensitive data on Slack's servers — data that's vulnerable to nation-state hackers, lawfare attacks by the U.S. government (think PRISM), not to mention malicious insiders (as Twitter discovered the hard way).

Companies with headquarters, or even employees, outside the United States may have particular cause to worry. According to a leaked document from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — the Quadrennial Intelligence Review Final Report, 2009 — U.S. spies contemplated "cyber operations" to steal intellectual property (IP) from research and development centers around the world within the next five to ten years. That was nine years ago. Global companies need to consider the real possibility that U.S. spies will use mass surveillance tools to steal foreign intellectual property and share that IP with companies stateside.

A breach at Slack of either the technical or legal variety would prove catastrophic to many organizations that rely on the service.

Why not Signal? WhatsApp? Or even email?

Before we get to the Slack alternatives, you may ask, “Why not just use Signal or WhatsApp groups, or PGP-encrypted email with a long CC list?”

We can discard PGP-encrypted email. It is lacking in perfect forward secrecy and is unsuitable for both personal group collaboration and enterprise deployment.

Signal and WhatsApp both use the Signal protocol and offer similar confidentiality guarantees. But while both offer a desktop client, they are are optimized for mobile, and neither is a good fit for enterprise deployment, where compliance with relevant data retention and deletion laws requires corporate key escrow to be effective.

Meet the Slack alternatives

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