The Onion Router (TOR) was designed to help against network surveillance by utilizing a network of secure tunnels to make users of the system anonymous.
Tor is used by individuals to access blocked websites and communicate freely on the Internet by routing the connection through a series of secure tunnels where each tunnel only knows the previous one and next in line.
While you can run other applications once you are connected to Tor, it may sometimes be easier to run dedicated solutions instead that are easier to setup or maintain.
Torchat uses the power of the Tor network to create a peer to peer instant messaging system; effectively a secure anonymous and encrypted instant messenger that runs right of the box. The software program is fully portable and can be run from external drives or local hard drives.
One limitation of the current version is that the listening port cannot be changed unless the user is doing it in the source which would mean that it would have to be compiled again. The author promised to add a configuration option to change the listening port of the application in a future version.
Once started the user is greeted with a window similar to the one on the above screenshot with the difference that no other contacts are added obviously. To add users one needs their Torchat ID which is a series of random chars, a nickname to identify the person and a initial message. The easiest way to exchange these would be by email, website, phone or other Instant Messengers. Paranoids will probably exchange them during a real-life meeting.
The author has some plans for his Instant Messenger. He plans multi-user chats, file transfers, customization options and block lists among other things. One to look out for.
Update:Torchat in the meantime has been moved to Github from where the latest version of the program can be downloaded. The program is available for both Linux and Windows, and the source code of the project has been published at the new site as well.
Update 2: Work on TorChat 2 has started. It is a rewrite of the original client.
Update 3: The project has not been updated since 2014. It appears to be abandoned. We suggest you use other services that promise secure messaging instead such as Signal.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.