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Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR) definition

Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR) (© adiruch na chiangmai /

Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR) (© adiruch na chiangmai /

Off-the-Record Messaging (OTR) is a method used in journalism that encrypts private instant messaging conversations that occur online. Conversations are completely encrypted so that nobody can see the content of messages, including the government, a network provider, and even the service that provides instant messaging. In this article, we provide a brief synopsis of off-the-record messaging, including how it is done and the benefits that it provides.

Off-the-record messaging is a protocol that encrypts conversations that are had on instant messaging. It provides users with the ability to have private and secure chats while still allowing them to use all of the tools that the messaging service provides.

How OTR Works

Off-the-record messaging uses a combination of Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) symmetric key algorithm, the SHA-2 hash function, and the Diffie-Hellman key exchange. Because it uses a symmetric key approach, the same key is used to both encrypt and decrypt a conversation; there aren’t any public keys.

openPR tip: In layman’s terms, this means that OTR ensures that a private instant messaging chat is kept that way: private. 

The Benefits of Off-the-Record Messaging

Off-the-Record Messaging provides several benefits for users. These benefits include:

  • End-to-end encryption. A message is encrypted from the sender and is only decrypted by the receiver’s side; there isn’t anyone or anything that can intercept the message and decrypt it.
  • Keeps all conversations secret. It keeps all chat conversations – both current and past – private and secure.
  • Mutual authentication. It certifies that the individual that the message is being sent to really is the person that the message is intended for.