Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced late last week that it will close down the free Wickr Me encrypted messaging service, saying in a blog post that it plans to “refocus” on its related AWS Wickr and Wickr Enterprise products at the expense of the consumer wing of the Wickr family.
Wickr has been in operation for a decade, making it one of the first end-to-end encrypted messaging apps on the market. Wickr Me was popular with journalists and whistleblowers alike as a method of secure communication of sensitive information, according to experts, but it was also alleged to be in wide use as a medium for illicit content like child sex abuse and drug transactions, according to a June report from NBC News
Amazon’s statement on the pending closure of Wickr Me doesn’t address those allegations directly, but it does emphasize a renewed focus on the enterprise and government versions of the app. Wickr is a relatively recent acquisition by Amazon, having started life in 2012 as a public-facing app before being purchased in the summer of 2021 by the hyperscaler. Amazon, at the time, indicated that the purchase was aimed at improving security for its many large organizational customers, who face growing threats given the shift to hybrid working.
“Public sector customers use Wickr for a diverse range of missions, from securely communicating with office-based employees to providing service members at the tactical edge with encrypted communications,” said Steve Schmidt, AWS vice president and CISO, in a blog post at the time of the acquisition. “Wickr’s secure communications solutions help enterprises and government organizations adapt to this change in their workforces and is a welcome addition to the growing set of collaboration and productivity services that AWS offers customers and partners.”
Wickr Me is still working at the moment, but will stop accepting new users at the end of December. The platform itself will remain in operation for one year after that, with Amazon planning to shut the system down completely on December 31, 2023. The company said in its statement today that it will provide details “in the coming months” on ways that current users can preserve their data from the Wickr Me platform.