Instant Messaging - Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
The details of users using live chat provided by Yahoo, Windows, Skype and Gmail are readily made available to law enforcement agencies by the companies involved.
IRC is a great old school way of live / instant message chatting. Users install an IRC client or connect via a webpage and it is possible to chat in an encrypted way. A lot of techies, free culture and software enthusiasts and media activists use this technology.
Try it out by contacting us. You can log into the irc.indymedia.org server and join the channels #ttfa and #aktivix and say hi!
Have a look at the settings in this Xchat network to be able to do this in an encrypted way, note the /6697 port used for Secure (encrypted) communication.
Instant Messaging - Using Off the Record Encryption with XMPP and SMS
There is an open standard for Internet chat called XMPP (formerly known as Jabber) this is a great decentralised alternative to tools like Skype and MSN messenger. It can also be extended to do all sorts of things like video chat, android phone chat, and most importantly for us, encrypted chat.
When you start that application you should be asked if you want to sign up for a xmpp account on one of the numerous servers that are available. You can then communicate with anyone with a xmpp compatible account on any of the other servers out there. This also includes people using gmail chat.
OTR (off the record) is specifically designed for chat messaging, it provides session based encryption and authentication, but on top of that it provides deniability, something protocols like GPG do not provide.
To take it one step further and communicate with OTR encryption follow the following guides.
Hands On - Pidgin: Have a look at this guide to using Pidgin and OTR encryption. It has a focus on average level users and is targeted at Windows operating system. https://security.ngoinabox.org/en/pidgin_main If you are using Ubuntu or Debian then to install it, there is help here.
Hands On - Text Secure: Sending SMS (text) messages is considered insecure, not only do they travel unencrypted through the phone network, they are also saved on your phone where someone might see them. If you are using an Android based smart phone there is a neat free tool to fix both issues; TextSecure. TextSecure uses a password to save all your messages (sent and received) encrypted with OTR to your phone, and it also enables you to securely SMS with other people using TextSecure. Have a look at this help guide to use Text Secure.