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How To Use OTR For macOS

By J.Austine
How To Use OTR For macOS

Using OTR in a macOS isn't a difficult process. In fact, if you follow a few simple procedural steps, you'll have your conversations encrypted within the shortest time possible. But first, what is OTR?

Using OTR in a macOS

OTR means off the record, and it's a way to encrypt instant private messages conversations online. OTR employs the use of end-to-end encryption. This ensures the network provider, instant messaging service, or the government doesn't see or have access to the messages.
Even though the process is not that difficult, it requires the use of the right software. Plus, following the correct procedure during the setup to have the conversations encrypted.

Using OTR and how it works

Just like all other softwares, OTR too isn't perfect if not directed the right way. Any susceptibility can easily pave the way for an invader to compromise a secure session. Be it in libpurple, the messaging library present in Adium and Pidgin, or a weakness in the OTR plugin. In any case, the National Security Agency wanted to snoop your conversations, it would be an easy task. This is because they have a trick to break the OTR.
But, NSA isn’t just interested in snooping because OTR provides other benefits besides hiding conversations from the agency. It offers an additional encryption layer and authentication. This can be over Google Talk, AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and other protocols supported by Adium or Pidgin. Furthermore, it ensures everything you talk about is obscure from the instant messaging service in use, the local network operator. Others include your internet provider, and maybe the intelligence agency(s) that monitor your internet use.
Besides, OTR provides additional authentication that guarantees the confidence of talking to a particular person. Even in a situation where your correspondence's account is compromised. For example, when the hacker tries to communicate with you using a screen name, you will see an error. The error indicates that the encryption information is not matching.
Even though OTR isn't perfect software, the good news is that it adds additional privacy. Further, if you want to have sensitive discussions online.

The OTR Set-up Process

Off the record, abbreviated as OTR, is just a plugin used in the Pidgin instant messenger. This means that to use it, you must install Pidgin as well as the Pidgin-OTR plugin to work smoothly. Both are suitable for Windows and ought to be present in the Linux distribution software repository. However, Mac OS X customers have to use Adium in place of Pidgin.
First, install the program and double click a file that opens a window resembling the diagram below.
How To Use OTR For macOS
After installation, launch the Pidgin and set up the account if you haven't done it. From there, visit the Tools > plugins menu, then activate your Off-the-Record Messaging plugin. After that, dial the plugin button to know the available options. Choose the account you prefer to use for a private chat. You will see something like this
How To Use OTR For macOS
Remember to click the 'generate button' to generate a private key for your specific account. The generated key is what you will use for encryption purposes when having private chat conversations.
If you want to use multiple accounts, then you will be required to generate separate keys. This is required for a specific account when using OTR. But now, how do you chat with a person who doesn't have the OTR setup? Well, they will be required to do the process on their computer. Alternatively, you can do it yourself for them to set the software and create a private key for use.

How To Initiate A Private Conversation?

Next, you will open the conversation window with your counterpart to begin chatting. If the conversation isn’t secure, you will see ‘not private’ when using the OTR. After the indication, click the button showing ‘start a private conversation’ to begin chatting with your partner.
From there, a message will pop up showing your sessions are secured, but your partner has not been verified. And it will require him to join from his end. If the message doesn't show up, it means your partner doesn't have the OTR setup. Alternatively, they may not have configured it the right way.

Authenticate Your Partner

After the message shows up, you will need to verify, authenticate your partner. Here, you will need to click the OTR button and select the button to authenticate your buddy.
Select either question and answer, share a secret, or do manual fingerprint verification. This ensures that you verify that the connected person isn't an imposter but a partner you want to engage. For example, use a specific phrase to be used by both of you or have a question only the person knows.
Your partner will be tasked to answer the question. Still, they can use the same phrase you had after the authentication prompt appeared. Remember, it's case-sensitive. Once authentication is done, your conversation status will read private from the unverified status.

Master the Key Fingerprints

After successful completion of the process, the OTR plugin will remember your partner's key fingerprint. For subsequent logins, it will ascertain that they use the same key and verify them automatically. In any case, someone tries to compromise the account, the attempts to connect using a different fingerprint will fail. Consequently, you'll be notified about it.

Make Your Conversations Private

The plugin will now automatically start a secure chat with your partner every time you want to talk. However, you have to note that the first sent or received message will be unencrypted. Your secure conversation is only active after the message is sent or received.
Therefore, make it a habit to start conversations with greetings such as Hi! Unlike starting with sensitive topics like revealing a sensitive secret meant for a group of people. Also, never start by cyking  up your team to begin a protest at a specific location.
It's worth noting that OTR isn't for all conversations but the sensitive ones. It offers additional privacy for sensitive talks even though it is not a full guarantee. It works pretty well for sensitive discussions. However, have it in mind that loopholes may be present on the OTR plugin or Pidgin. The agencies can thus take advantage of these loopholes just like other software.
The surety is that OTR is more secure than talking on a clear text!

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