FAQ

What is the typical range for a message sent on BeeChat?
It depends on the environment and dongle used, but, typically, from node to node the range is a couple of kilometers while outdoors, or several hundred meters indoors. The long explanation, is that there are different models of XBee radios. They all operate in one of two frequencies, either 868 Mhz or 2.4Ghz. The XBee model with longest range is the XBee XTend 900, with a range of 40 miles (64 kilometers) in the best of cases. This range decreases if there are trees, buildings or other barriers cutting off the signal. The benefit of ZigBee, is that if you want to reach Bob who is behind a mountain, and Greg is on top of the mountain, Greg’s device will act as a bridge between you and Bob.
What is the bitrate and data transfer speed?
BeeChat’s recommended XBee model is theDigi XBee 3 Zigbee® 3.0, has transfer speeds of 250 Kbps, a range of 2 miles/3.2 km and baud rate of 9600.

Why should we trust this?
As InfoWorld.com put it:
“Open source also allows anyone to fix broken code, while closed source can only be fixed by the vendor. Over time this means open source projects (like the Linux kernel) tend to become more secure since more people are testing and fixing the code.”
Essentially, you shouldn’t inherently trust any digital computing system, however, the fact the code is open source, means it is open for anyone to see if there are security flaws, and when they are found, the community will immediately get to work on improving it.

Realistically, anything can be hacked, right? What defense is there against this?
When designing BeeChat, we decided it would be foolish to try to design everything in the program, and instead opted for the concept of BeeChat using other tools such asOpenSSL for encryption. As an example, OpenSSL has a massive community, as it is used in the private sector, by people, corporations and governments alike. That means any bug found within OpenSSL is quickly fixed by the community, and in case this happens all you have to do to be safe is update your system. In short, the main defense against hacks is relying on projects such as OpenSSL, Bash, and 7Zip’s large communities to have quick fixes to problems that may arise.

What hardware is required? OS dependencies?
Currently, the BeeChat software runs on Linux only. That being said, if your computer is able to handle it, you can install a lightweight Linux Virtual Machine on your Windows or Mac and run the software without any issues whatsoever. (click here to follow our guide)

Does this run on mobile as well or what systems and OS are supported?
Not at the moment, but we are planning on developing it once the software gains traction.

This means that it can’t cross oceans, though? At least not on its own?
It’s not likely, but theoretically, it could very well cross oceans. We would just need need more powerful nodes than the XBee’s available today, but it is possible to do it technically.

Can we see a GitHub at least?
Yes, the GitHub link is here.

How does the encryption work? specifically tell us how in detail does authentication work.
See the How Does the BeeChat Encryption Work page for an explanation.

Why not make the mesh using WiFi dongles?
It would be possible, however an analogy to using WiFi for mesh networks is as if you were cutting a cake with a spoon. WiFi was not designed for mesh networking, meanwhile, ZigBee is a standard specifically designed for this process. To add to that, some 868 MHz modules can reach distances of up to 40 miles/ 64 kilometers with only 1 Watt. This is not possible with Wi-Fi. The BeeChat software is extremely simple and high level, meaning the mesh networking is done by the XBee radios themselves, and BeeChat glues all the tools such as OpenSSL, AESCrypt, XBee to make the human interface possible to use for human-to-human communication.

What scheme of public key cryptography is being used?
BeeChat requires OpenSSL’s ElGamal Diffie-Hellman for keypair generation. Although there are faster schemes, this scheme allows us to generate a Shared Secret to be able to encrypt a message symmetrically with AESCrypt.

Is the compression before or after encryption?
There is no compression for messages, only encryption. That being said, we do compress data and split it into parts with 7Zip before encrypting it if we are sending a file. So, when we do compress, it is before encryption.

I don’t know much about radio, but I take it this can be done legally?
Yes. XBee transceiver models are legal in the following locations:USA, Canada, EU, Japan Australia, New Zealand and Brazil.

Will it be banned?
It is unlikely, since BeeChat works on the ZigBee protocol, if BeeChat became banned, thousands of smart home devices would also need to be banned.

Is there a way to use it without revealing your location?
BeeChat doesn’t send your location data to any node, however, someone could try and triangulate your location if you are sending a large file over the air, but it would take time and there is no known method for doing this currently.

Could we run some type of crypto payment network on it?
Yes. We are already working on incorporating Bitcoin Lightning Network payments over BeeChat.

Any plans to incorporate this into the Pinephone or Purism’s phone?
Absolutely. Since BeeChat is Linux native, it would be entirely possible to make the dongle work for Pinephone and Purism’s phone. However, whether those companies decide to implement an XBee module inside their electronics is not something we can control.