Perzo: a military-grade messaging service that keeps the NSA at arms' length

Perzo safelock
Safe messaging

Perzo chief David Gurle knows a thing or two about communications. A messaging expert who previously founded Microsoft's Lync video conferencing service and once ran Skype's Business division, Gurle's latest app is a military-grade messaging system designed to keep private communications away from prying eyes.

Gurle believes that communications tools should evolve to bring email, text and instant messaging together under a smart and intuitive interface while placing security high on the agenda. Perzo, which encrypts every message end-to-end using a three-layer encryption system, also brings collaborative features to the table - and it's free.

Launched in December 2013, the service has more than 7,000 active users, racked up 60,000 sent messages, seen more than 2,000 files exchanged and adds on average around 100 users per day.

TechRadar Pro spoke to Gurle to find out more.

TechRadar Pro: The communications space is a crowded one. How does Perzo stand out from the crowd?

David Gurle: It certainly is and the need for more secure communications has become a mainstream one in the wake of the NSA spying revelations. The security policies for existing communications platforms are upside down.

The likes of Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have all built their services first and then added security on as an afterthought and for many service providers it's an inverse relationship between increased levels of security and convenience. To have more of one you get less of the other.

Perzo is the natural evolution of communication tools where email, text and instant messaging come together into an intuitive and smart interface. We built security as the foundation of the product in this next era of communications - new technologies but also new behaviours, which will bring new problems once again.

TRP: Perzo sounds like a Whatsapp equivalent but with military-grade security. Is that a fair description?

DG: No, it's much more.Perzo is a secure communications application that integrates the best of email, Instant Messaging and SMS into an easy to use and viral web application. Perzo guarantees privacy and reliability of user's data whether they are messages, files or pictures.

Perzo encrypts every message end to end. We use a three-layer encryption system along with a random key generator that encrypts each message with a different key. This ensures that there are no men-in-the-middle attacks.


Collaborative chat in action

TRP: What collaborative features does Perzo offer?

DG: You can think of Perzo like a privacy layer, sitting above all your existing communications tools and integrating them into one secure UI.

We also have features like Off the Record messages that enable the content of the sent message to disappear after a set timer or Private Messages that enable further encryption to prevent a 3rd party from reading the content of a critical message 'over the shoulder' and ability to request a Read Receipt for each message if needed.

TRP: Perzo is free. How is the company going to make money?

DG: Perzo will always be free. Our roadmap will see us introduce contextual intelligence, which we call smart parsing, to Perzo users.

When Perzo users decide to go to a movie, or have lunch or dinner they will turn on smart parsing and this will allow the end user to receive relevant information about the upcoming event they are talking about. It is like having search come to you at the most relevant time.

So, for example when sending a meeting invitation you can choose for Perzo to also show you recommended locations from various sites likes Yelp, Zagat or Google along with local deals coming from Amazon Local, Yipit or Foursquare, etc… If and when the user selects one of these deals, Perzo will receive an affiliate fee from the site that offers that deal.

TRP: Is Perzo aimed at consumers, businesses, or both?

DG: We designed Perzo so that it can be used for personal and professional communications. Perzo has all the reliability, security and power to be used for making communications effective in businesses while it has all the features individuals will like to be used with friends and family.

Perzo excels in business to business communications and business to consumer communications thanks to its ability to work on multi-operating system and multi-browser environments.

TRP: How pleased are you with Perzo's reception since launching a month ago?

DG: We are extremely pleased with the reception we are getting from users and from the industry. Since launch we've attracted 7000 active users, over 60000 messages sent, over 2000 files exchanged, and we're adding about 100 users a week on average.

TRP: How has your time at Skype and Microsoft helped you with Perzo?

DG: Yes significantly. I have not only learned the craft of building communication software that scales to massive number of users but I also realized that it is only outside of such big companies that I can develop a concept like Perzo which brings the best of email, sms and IM into an easy to use interface and offer true end to end security.

Kane Fulton
Kane has been fascinated by the endless possibilities of computers since first getting his hands on an Amiga 500+ back in 1991. These days he mostly lives in realm of VR, where he's working his way into the world Paddleball rankings in Rec Room.