Innovation

HighSide: The ‘unhackable’ super-secure Slack for spooks

By Oliver Smith 8 January 2018
Image: Getty/AZemdega.
Summary

Military groups, spies and lawyers are flocking to this new app.

Email is broken, and instant messaging apps and workplace social networks aren’t much better.

The problem, according to Brendan Diaz, is that from Gmail to Slack and HipChat, all are built on insecure, broken security assumptions which leave businesses vulnerable to attack.

The fact is demonstrated, he claims, by the fact that some 91% of all cyber attacks on businesses start by targeting their messaging services, mainly via email.

That’s why he co-founded HighSide, and why businesses, shady three-letter government departments, and defence companies are already flocking to it.

Meet HighSide

On the surface HighSide looks pretty similar to Slack or any other instant messaging work apps, it’s “intentionally designed to look, feel and function like the team collaboration apps people already know and love” says Diaz.

But beneath that coat of paint, HighSide is powered by a decentralized, blockchain-powered messaging system that’s entirely encrypted – unlike any other messaging system.

The problem with Gmail or Slack is that both can read, track and analyse your messages for advertising, research purposes or just if they’re asked to by the government, and both are regularly hacked.

While HighSide might look Slack-like in fact, Diaz argues, it’s more like the anti-Slack.

The anti-Slack

Its technical wizardry is all the brainchild of chief technical officer and co-founder Jonathan Warren.

Warren previously rose to fame as the author of the “NSA-proof” Bitmessage protocol, which boomed in popularity after Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the NSA’s cyber-monitoring in 2013.

HighSide is built on the next generation of this tech.

“The problem we’re solving is the single biggest piece of the puzzle,” says Diaz.

“We’re protecting organizations from the way they actually suffer data breaches, by protecting their communications.”

Diaz and the team might’ve started out trying to build a more secure Slack, but they’ve also built what is probably the most secure messaging app ever, and they’re off to a flying start.

Spooky business

Among HighSide’s clients are “current contracts with multiple US & UK intelligence agencies, military, and Lawyers Without Borders.”

Diaz refused to be drawn on specific names.

But he did say the company, which charges businesses per-user per-month for its service, has several “enormous” enterprise deals in the works, and is in partnership talks with PwC and BAE Systems, and will reach profitability in 2018.

Slack is still the new hotness among startups and tech-savvy firms, but HighSide might just be the super-secure future of workplace messaging.