Off-the-Record Messaging plugin for pidgin
v4.0.2, 9 Mar 2016
This is a pidgin plugin which implements Off-the-Record (OTR) Messaging.
It is known to work (at least) under the Linux and Windows versions of
OTR allows you to have private conversations over IM by providing:
- No one else can read your instant messages.
- You are assured the correspondent is who you think it is.
- The messages you send do _not_ have digital signatures that are
checkable by a third party. Anyone can forge messages after a
conversation to make them look like they came from you. However,
_during_ a conversation, your correspondent is assured the messages
he sees are authentic and unmodified.
- Perfect forward secrecy
- If you lose control of your private keys, no previous conversation
For more information on Off-the-Record Messaging, see
Run pidgin, and open the Plugins panel. (If you had a copy of pidgin
running before you installed pidgin-otr, you will need to restart it.)
Find the Off-the-Record Messaging plugin, and enable it by selecting the
checkbox next to it. That should be all you need to do.
Click "Configure Plugin" to bring up the OTR UI. The UI has two
"pages": "Config" and "Known fingerprints".
The "Config" page allows you generate private keys, and to set OTR
settings and options.
Private keys are used to authenticate you to your buddies. OTR will
automatically generate private keys when needed, but you can also
generate them manually if you wish by using the "Generate" button
here. Choose one of your accounts from the menu, click "Generate"
and wait until it's finished. You'll see a sequence of letters and
number appear above the "Generate" button. This is the
"fingerprint" for that account; it is unique to that account. If
you have multiple IM accounts, you can generate private keys for
each one separately.
The OTR settings determine when private messaging is enabled. The
checkboxes on this page control the default settings; you can edit
the per-buddy settings by right-clicking on your buddy in the buddy
list, and choosing "OTR Settings" from the menu.
The settings are:
[X] Enable private messaging
[X] Automatically initiate private messaging
[ ] Require private messaging
[ ] Don't log OTR conversations
If the "enable private messaging" box is unchecked, private messages
will be disabled completely (and the other two boxes will be greyed
out, as they're irrelevant).
If the first box is checked, but "automatically initiate private
messaging" is unchecked, private messaging will be enabled, but only
if either you or your buddy explicitly requests to start a private
conversation (and the third box will be greyed out, as it's
If the first two boxes are checked, but "require private messaging"
is unchecked, OTR will attempt to detect whether your buddy can
understand OTR private messages, and if so, automatically start a
If the first three boxes are checked, messages will not be sent to your
buddy unless you are in a private conversation.
If the fourth box is checked, OTR-protected conversations will not
be logged, even if logging of instant messages is turned on in
The OTR UI Options control the appearance of OTR in your conversation
window. At present, the only option is:
[X] Show OTR button in toolbar
This option controls whether an extra button will appear in your
toolbar. This button will allow you to quickly see the OTR status
of your conversation, to manually start or stop an OTR conversation,
or to authenticate your buddy. All of these abilities are already
available in the OTR menu, but some people prefer a butter closer to
where they type their messages.
The "Known fingerprints" page allows you to see the fingerprints of any
buddies you have previously communicated with privately.
The "Status" will indicate the current OTR status of any
conversation using each fingerprint. The possibilities are
"Private", which means you're having a private conversation,
"Unverified", which means you have not yet verified your buddy's
fingerprint, "Not private", which means you're just chatting in IM
the usual (non-OTR) way, and "Finished", which means your buddy has
selected "End private conversation"; at this point, you will be
unable to send messages to him at all, until you either also choose
"End private conversation" (in which case further messages will be
sent unencrypted), or else choose "Refresh private conversation" (in
which case further messages will be sent privately).
The table also indicates whether or not you have verified this
fingerprint by authenticating your buddy.
By selecting one of your buddies from the list, you'll be able to do
one or more of the following things by clicking the buttons below
- "Start private conversation": if the status is "Not private" or
"Finished", this will attempt to start a private conversation.
- "End private conversation": if the status is "Unverified",
"Private", or "Finished", you can force an end to your private
conversation by clicking this button. There's not usually a good
reason to do this, though.
- "Verify fingerprint": this will open a window where you can
verify the value of your buddies' fingerprint. If you do not
wish to work with fingerprints directly, you should instead
authenticate used the OTR button from within a conversation.
- "Forget fingerprint": this will remove your buddy's fingerprint
from the list. You'll have to re-authenticate him the next time
you start a private conversation with him. Note that you can't
forget a fingerprint that's currently in use in a private
You can close the configuration panel (but make sure not to disable the
IM as normal with your buddies. If you want to start a private
conversation with one of them, bring up the OTR menu (either from the
menubar or by clicking the OTR button, if you have enabled it). From
the OTR menu, select "Start private conversation".
If your buddy does not have the OTR plugin, a private conversation will
(of course) not be started. [But he or she will get some information
about OTR instead.]
If your buddy does have the OTR plugin (and it's enabled), a private
conversation will be initiated.
If both you and your buddy have OTR software, and your OTR settings set
to automatically initiate private messaging, your clients may recognize
each other and automatically start a private conversation.
The first time you have a private conversation with one of your buddies,
a message will appear in your conversation telling you to authenticate
them. You may authenticate by selecting "Authenticate Buddy" on the
OTR menu. This is described later on.
At this point, the label on the OTR button in the conversation window
will change to "OTR: Unverified". This means that, although you are
sending encrypted messages, you have not yet authenticated your buddy,
and so it is not certain that the person who can decrypt these messages
is actually your buddy (it may be an attacker). This situation will
remain until either you or your buddy choose "Authenticate Buddy" from
the OTR button menu (described next).
The OTR menu contains the following choices:
Start / Refresh private conversation
Choosing this menu option will attempt to start (or refresh, if
you're already in one) a private conversation with this buddy.
End private conversation
If you wish to end the private conversation, and go back to
communicating without privacy protection, you can select this
option. Note that if you have "Automatically initiate private
messaging" set, it is likely that a new private conversation will
automatically begin immediately.
For more information on authentication, see
OTR provides three ways to authenticate your buddy:
1) Question and answer
2) Shared secret
3) Manual fingerprint verification
To start the authentication process, you need to first be
communicating with your buddy in the "Unverified" or "Private"
states. [Although the "Private" state indicates that you have
already successfully authenticated your buddy, and it is not
necessary to do it again.] Choose "Authenticate buddy" from the OTR
menu. The Authenticate Buddy dialog will pop up. Use the combo box
to select which of the three authentication methods you would like
Once you have authenticated your buddy, your OTR status will change
to "Private". OTR will also remember that you successfully
authenticated, and during future private conversations with the same
buddy, you will no longer get the warning message when you start
chatting. This will continue until your buddy switches to a
computer or an IM account he or she hasn't used before, at which
point OTR will not recognize him or her and you will be asked to
Question and answer
To authenticate using a question, pick a question whose answer is
known only to you and your buddy. Enter this question and this
answer, then wait for your buddy to enter the answer too. If the
answers don't match, then you may be talking to an imposter.
If your buddy answers correctly, then you have successfully
authenticated him or her, and the OTR status of this conversation
will change to "Private".
Your buddy will probably also want to ask you a question as well in
order for him or her to authenticate you back.
Note that this method first appeared in pidgin-otr 3.2.0; if your
buddy is using an older version, this will not work.
To authenticate someone with the shared secret method, you and your
buddy should decide on a secret word or phrase in advance. This can
be done however you like, but you shouldn't type the phrase directly
into your conversation.
Enter the shared secret into the field provided in the Authenticate
Buddy dialog box. Once you enter the secret and hit OK, your buddy
will be asked to do exactly the same thing. If you both enter the
same text, then OTR will accept that you are really talking to your
buddy. Otherwise, OTR reports that authentication has failed. This
either means that your buddy made a mistake typing in the text, or
it may mean that someone is intercepting your communication.
Note that this method first appeared in pidgin-otr 3.1.0; if your
buddy is using an older version, this will not work.
Manual fingerprint verification
If your buddy is using a version of pidgin-otr before 3.1.0, or a
different OTR client that does not support the other authentication
methods, you will need to use manual fingerprint verification.
You will need some other authenticated communication channel (such
as speaking to your buddy on the telephone, or sending gpg-signed
messages). You should tell each other your own fingerprints. If
the fingerprint your buddy tells you matches the one listed as his
or her "purported fingerprint", pull down the selection that says "I
have not" (verified that this is in fact the correct fingerprint),
and change it to "I have".
Once you do this, the OTR status will change to "Private". Note
that you only need to do this once per buddy (or once per
fingerprint, if your buddy has more than one fingerprint).
pidgin-otr will remember which fingerprints you have marked as
This will open a web browser to get online help.
Please send your bug reports, comments, suggestions, patches, etc. to us
at the contact address below.
This plugin only attempts to protect instant messages, not multi-party
chats, file transfers, etc.
There are three mailing lists pertaining to Off-the-Record Messaging:
*** All users of OTR software should join this. *** It is used to
announce new versions of OTR software, and other important information.
Discussion of usage issues related to OTR Messaging software.
Discussion of OTR Messaging software development.
The Off-the-Record Messaging plugin for pidgin is covered by the following
Off-the-Record Messaging plugin for pidgin
Copyright (C) 2004-2016 Ian Goldberg, Rob Smits,
Chris Alexander, Willy Lew,
Lisa Du, Nikita Borisov
This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify
it under the terms of version 2 of the GNU General Public License as
published by the Free Software Foundation.
This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the
GNU General Public License for more details.
There is a copy of the GNU General Public License in the COPYING file
packaged with this plugin; if you cannot find it, write to the Free
Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA
To report problems, comments, suggestions, patches, etc., you can email
Ian Goldberg, Rob Smits, Chris Alexander, Willy Lew, Lisa Du, Nikita Borisov
For more information on Off-the-Record Messaging, visit