Purple Onion TOR
Tor stands for "The Onion Router." Wikicommons

Tor just made it a lot easier to have a secure instant message conversation. The anonymity service released a new piece of software Thursday that makes it possible for users to have encrypted conversations over the same privacy network endorsed by Edward Snowden.

Tor Messenger, which has been in the making for over a year, secures instant message conversations by default. It integrates Off The Record protocol, a cryptographic messaging service, and instantly sends conversations over the network of Tor nodes across the world. Each connection point redirects and disguises Internet traffic, making the chat (like the Tor browser) almost impossible to track back.

Similar chat clients like Adium and Pidgin can also be encrypted, though with Tor Messenger users it also obscures their location.

“With Tor Messenger, your chat is encrypted and anonymous...so it is hidden from snoops, whether they are the government of a foreign country or a company trying to sell you boots,” Tor public policy director Kate Krauss told Wired. Said another developer, “For a conversation that is supposed to be 'off the record'...you do not want to leave any trace. It's as if the conversation never happened.”

Tor, an acronym for “The Onion Router,” was first developed by U.S. military researchers in the late 1990s as a safe way for U.S. intelligence sources in hostile countries to safely communicate with Washington. It's since become the preferred Internet browser for anyone trying to hide their Web activity, ranging from illicit international drug deals to counseling for rape victims.