This posts is a list of all the suspicious things Matrix/New Vector and Element (which is run by Matrix employees) have done.

Crossposted to c/opensource from c/privacy.

I want to start a civil discussion on this topic, if anyone has improvement ideas for the list or wants to debate one of the bullet points for removal, I’m all ears.

Matrix

The Cloudflare Situation

All research on the Cloudflare situation is done by me.

If you check the SSL Certificate for https://element.io you’ll see it’s by Cloudflare.

Cloudflare has MANY privacy issues, and just wanting to centralize the web.

The Element client is the most used client, with many users using the default instance, because it’s easy or they want to simply join their friends or a community on Matrix easily. This comes as worrying because Cloudflare decrypts TLS traffic and this is even more worrying because Cloudflare is a honeypot.

Even if Cloudflare cannot decrypt anything because of the Matrix protocol encrypting them beforehand, lots of metadata in the message itself is send over plaintext like who you’re talking with, channel name etc. (and this is excluding the metadata leaks that Matrix has to the main homeserver and in general). Of course, this could be mitigated by using Element on another instance that isn’t behind Cloudflare, but the average user will not know to do that or even understand the concept of federation and decentralization.

Cloudflare’s CDN can be used without using their SSL certificate which just backdoors your site, so why is Element using it? Element is run by the same people that are behind matrix.org (mostly), so they know how to do basic privacy features.

Even if we assume there’s no ill intent here, Cloudflare just wants to centralize the web (~30% of SSL traffic goes through Cloudflare, ~80% of CDN traffic goes through Cloudflare), which is obviously against Matrix’s mission of decentralized communication.

Through Cloudflare, an adversary with ill intention could target a Matrix user and be susceptible to metadata collection.

The CIA & NSA admitted that they kill people by gathering and using metadata.

I’ve took this argument in the official Matrix channels, and no one has been able to properly respond to the arguments presented. Though, they were only members, no admins were involved.

If anyone wants to bring these issues forth to the official Matrix admins, I’d be more than glad to help. Thanks for reading!

Dessalines
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urte bat

You can “trust” it, because its self hostable, and buildable from source, unlike other not self hostable services. Its origins and funding are important, but less so because of those two attributes.

The metadata leaking is a problem with every federated system, xmpp included. You could even call the metadata leaking a feature, not a bug, since its what makes federation possible.

Whats important is that the metadata being leaked, isn’t linked to your identity, unlike with signal. Matrix doesn’t require phone numbers, or emails to sign up.

The cloudflare concerns aren’t an issue as long as you run your own instance, or join one that doesn’t use cloudflare. There’s nothing requiring cloudflare built into the software or the protocol.

Coconut Eclair
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10urte bat

The cloudflare concerns aren’t an issue as long as you run your own instance, or join one that doesn’t use cloudflare. There’s nothing requiring cloudflare built into the software or the protocol.

Yeah, but the vast majority of non-technical users don’t bother to change homeservers, or even clients, so it could affect them. What puzzles me is why the Matrix/Element team chose Cloudflare for app.element.io, (matrix.org uses LetsEncrypt), when CF aims to centralize the web and is a privacy nightmare. It’s more of an ethics thing, in my opinon. But sure, like I mentioned too, could be solved by switching homeservers/clients but the vast majority of users won’t bother.

Dessalines
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urte bat

I understand it even though I also hate cloudflare, as ddos attacks are extremely difficult to thwart otherwise. But of course it stands that nothing in the code of any of the homeservers, apps, or protocol requires cloudflare.

Also you listed signal below as something you prefer, and they use cloudflare (and required phone numbers), and since its not self hostable, that’s mandatory.

poVoq
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6urte bat

The metadata leaking is a problem with every federated system, xmpp included. You could even call the metadata leaking a feature, not a bug, since its what makes federation possible.

The problem is not mainly the leaking metadata, but that the Matrix protocol is designed to indefinitely store and freely share this metadata with every home-server joining (which even gets a full copy of everything retro-actively). XMPP does not do this.

Dessalines
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10urte bat

How does xmpp not store information about federated users joining a room?

poVoq
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urte bat

XMPP only does this on the single server the room resides on and does not share this info with other participating servers except for the bare minimum needed to show the users nick names.

I recommend you hosting your own Matrix home server and after joining a few federated rooms look at your database what kind of historical metadata ends up on your new server. It’s honestly appalling from a privacy point of view.

Yes this is needed for room persistence across multiple servers, but IMHO that is a solution looking for a problem and also a highly over-engineered one.

@Ferk@lemmy.ml
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There’s ongoing work to encrypt much of the metadata. https://github.com/matrix-org/matrix-doc/pull/3414

Yes this is needed for room persistence across multiple servers, but IMHO that is a solution looking for a problem and also a highly over-engineered one.

Without this solution the transition to p2p would be much more complicated, would it not?

Matrix is still a great project and is one of the only good and privacy-respecting Discord alternatives right now. Services like Discord don’t have any end-to-end encryption so it’s still a good alternative. And there is work being done to encrypt metadata. https://github.com/matrix-org/matrix-doc/pull/3414

aks
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urte bat

It would be foolish to trust any of these services blindly.

However matrix is the better alternative to many, for now.

@Yujiri@lemmy.ml
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7urte bat

Also the part about matrix being created for military: Most of our technology is derived from military use. Sadly the best motivator for human beings to create a new thing is “how we can use it to control/kill?”

True: even Tor was created by the US gov

m-p{3}
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urte bat

And ARPANET, basically the ancestor of the Internet itself.

Travis Skaalgard
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Sure. There are still very few good alternatives.

@Yujiri@lemmy.ml
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The CIA & NSA admitted that they kill people by gathering and using metadata.

This is a serious claim that you just gloss over. I don’t doubt that they do those things, but I’d still like to see the source for them publicly admitting it.

poVoq
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15urte bat

This is well sourced and known:

in April 2014, at a symposium at Johns Hopkins University, General Michael Hayden, a former director of both the CIA and the NSA, said this: “We kill people based on metadata”. He then qualified that stark assertion by reassuring the audience that the US government doesn’t kill American citizens on the basis of their metadata. They only kill foreigners.

from this source, but a google search will give you many others.

Coconut Eclair
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7urte bat

https://www.justsecurity.org/10318/video-clip-director-nsa-cia-we-kill-people-based-metadata/

And I believe there was a tweet somewhere, if I find it, I’ll link it.

Kino Eye ☭
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8urte bat

What’s the best alternative? Jami seems good and I generally trust the FSF and I found Revolt which seems to basically aim to recreate all Discord features and is currently in public beta.

https://github.com/revoltchat

Mossy
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6urte bat

I’ve also heard about Fosscord, but it doesn’t seem like it’s at it’s first release yet

https://fosscord.com/

@adrianmalacoda@lemmy.ml
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urte bat

Fosscord aims to be compatible with Discord which is why I think it has an edge over Revolt. It will be possible to use Fosscord client as a free alternative to the proprietary Discord client while in the process of switching over to a self-hosted instance.

@Yujiri@lemmy.ml
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3urte bat

Is Revolt federated?

Kino Eye ☭
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I’m actually not sure, nor can I see what encryption they use on the website. Maybe someone smarter than me can check out the code

@testman@lemmy.ml
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Kino Eye ☭
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2urte bat

Thanks!

Revolt currently does not have encryption but there’s an open issue https://github.com/revoltchat/revolt/issues/207

@Yujiri@lemmy.ml
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That’s one thing I don’t like about Revolt. There’s no information about it either on their homepage or github

Hamster
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8urte bat

I don’t like that the protocol is so intertwined with a commercial company.

@Vera9@lemmy.ml
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4urte bat

me too.

CHEF-KOCH
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3urte bat

I feel the same, Telegram and Matrix got hyped and whatnot but same like Signal they got millions of dollars and are light years behind the competition. Which makes me wonder what they do with the money and why they do not hire competent people, which I would do in such case to address all concerns and design flaws.

Matrix encryption is flawed too, avatars, reactions etc. are NOT encrypted. Matrix might be an alternative until all flaws are fixed, but that might take years from now.

poVoq
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urte bat

Matrix encryption is flawed too, avatars, reactions etc. are NOT encrypted.

Most messengers only encrypt the text body. There is some work underway to improve this in XMPP with a new version of the OMEMO standard, but this is not yet implemented in most clients.

IMHO the bigger problem with Matrix’s OLM e2ee is that they weakened key exchange to be per account and not per device (mainly to make it more scalable in group-chats) and this requires devices to exchange the shared private key which is inherently risky.

@BridgeBum@lemmy.ml
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7urte bat

and this requires devices to exchange the shared private key which is inherently risky.

There is some risk, sure. I don’t see how this would be any more risky than a TLS exchange. Obviously the exchange can be implemented badly, but if done correctly it seems like it would work with certs and send the key encrypted.

I think the bigger risk is the key sitting at rest on multiple devices, some of which are easily lost (cell phones) and could then compromise an account.

poVoq
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urte bat

You seem to have a misunderstanding of what public and private keys are. Private keys should never leave the device they were created on, and yes of course having the same key on multiple devices is also a problem.

Coconut Eclair
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7urte bat

Agreed, many people would like to use what they call “integrations” aka “bots” for those coming from Discord, which wouldn’t be unencrypted, and as you mentioned stickers. Signal/XMPP is my messenger of choice at the moment.

Matrix is still a great project and is one of the only good and privacy-respecting Discord alternatives right now. Services like Discord don’t have any end-to-end encryption so it’s still a good alternative. And there is work being done to encrypt metadata. https://github.com/matrix-org/matrix-doc/pull/3414

@gmate8@lemmy.ml
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-15urte bat

Signal is the way to go, Matrix is like Odysee

Coconut Eclair
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9urte bat

Signal has done their fair share of shady things like not releasing the source code for a year to implement some cryptocurrency and the closed-source anti-spam program running on their servers, but that can be mitigated anyhow since Signal works without trusting the server. It’s far better than other alternatives, anyways.

@charlie_root@lemmy.ml
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deleted by creator

Coconut Eclair
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3urte bat

This is a tricky question that can’t be answered on computers either even if you run Linux since the package manager can be compromised etc. In case of phones, best bet would be GrapheneOS with verified boot so there isn’t a chance it’d get infected.

@sibachian@lemmy.ml
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8urte bat

signal is centralized, requires your phone number, hosted in the US, has very limited interface and features, and run by a steve jobs type personality. thanks, but no thanks.

@xarvos@lemmy.ml
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5urte bat

Signal is more Odysee-like if anything, not federated and having crypto bs builtin.

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