Purpose of this Report
The purpose of this report is to describe the type, scope, and deployment status of the encryption mechanisms integrated into each of LINE's main features.
Encryption in LINE
LINE employs various encryption technologies to protect user information. In addition to transport layer encryption, which is used to protect traffic between LINE clients and servers, we apply Letter Sealing encryption to supported message types and supported voice/video calls. Letter Sealing is the name of the end-to-end encryption (E2EE) protocol developed by LINE. For details about the encryption protocols and algorithms used in LINE, please refer to our Encryption Whitepaper.
Encryption Deployment Status
(1) LINE Messaging
Text and location messages sent and received using LINE's messaging feature are end-to-end encrypted with Letter Sealing if one of the following conditions is met.
- Both users have Letter Sealing enabled in 1-to-1 chats
- All users have Letter Sealing enabled in 1-to-n chats (chats with up to 50 members)
- All users have Letter Sealing enabled in group chats (groups with up to 50 members)
If you want to see if the chat room is protected by Letter Sealing, you can find the guide here. Messages other than text and location messages, such as image, video, file, and audio messages, are encrypted using transport layer encryption – either by LEGY*1 encryption or HTTPS. The chart below shows the transport layer encryption deployment status for each type of message for the period Nov 2019 - Sep 2020.
*1 LEGY stands for Line Event-delivery GatewaY, and it's a custom-built API gateway server. LEGY uses standard cryptography algorithms for key exchange and encryption.
Due to certain technical and environmental constraints, transport layer encryption was not sufficiently deployed for certain media types. However, starting from September 2017, we have maintained a transport layer encryption rate very close to 100%.
The following table summarizes the encryption (Letter Sealing, LEGY Encryption, HTTPS) deployment status for each message and media type.
|Text||◯||◯ → ◎||◎||◎||◎||◎|
|Location||◯||◯ → ◎||◎||◎||◎||◎|
|Image files *3||△||△||◯||◯||◯||◯|
|Voice messages *4||☓||☓||◯||◯||◯||◯|
|Video files *4||☓||☓||◯||◯||◯||◯|
|Other files *3||△||△||◯||◯||◯||◯|
Legend: ◎ Letter Sealing (end-to-end encryption)/ ◯ Transport-level encryption / △ Partially protected / ☓ Not encrypted or not sufficiently encrypted
◎ Letter Sealing is enabled by default in major LINE clients.
◯ sufficiently secure transport encryption, as evaluated at release time, is employed by major LINE clients.
△ that partial data protection was applied. The security level of the employed encryption was considered adequate both at release time, and at the time of writing of this report.
☓ the referenced message type or functionality did not have sufficient protection, as evaluated at the time of writing of this report.
- *2 △ During this period, HTTP was used to download sticker packages, but messages that include stickers were themselves encrypted.
- *3 △ During this period, both HTTP and HTTPS were used. Depending on usage environment (OS, region, connection type, etc.) transport encryption may not have been applied.
- *4 ☓ During this period, transport encryption was employed only for uploads, when connected via WiFi.
For users running older versions of the LINE client, or using an older or unsupported OS version, the encryption methods described above may not be applicable, and an older encryption method or algorithm may be used instead. In such cases, LINE communication may not be sufficiently protected.
(2) LINE Free Calls (Audio and Video Calls)
LINE supports several types of free calls. Of those, 1-to-1 audio calls and 1-to-1 video calls are end-to-end encrypted using Letter Sealing as detailed in the table below. Group calls, group video calls, and Line meeting are only protected with transport-level encryption.
|Free call type||2015||2016||2017/9||2018/4||2019/10||2020/9|
|1-to-1 audio calls||◯||◯ → ◎||◎||◎||◎||◎|
|1-to-1 video calls||◯||◯ → ◎||◎||◎||◎||◎|
|Group audio calls||◯||◯||◯||◯||◯||◯|
|Group video calls||-||◯||◯||◯||◯||◯|
Legend: ◎ Letter Sealing (end-to-end encryption) / ◯ Transport-level encryption / - Not implemented
(3) Letter Sealing (end-to-end encryption) Deployment Status
Letter Sealing is LINE's end-to-end encryption protocol. Message types that support Letter Sealing are encrypted on the LINE client before being sent, and cannot be decrypted by LINE's servers. Letter Sealing was initially released as an optional feature in 2015/8, and was enabled by default in major clients in 2016. Currently the number of message types that support Letter Sealing is limited.
■ Letter Sealing Protection Scope
- Text messages (in 1-to-1 chats, and in group chats with up to 50 members)
- Location messages (in 1-to-1 chats, and in group chats with up to 50 members)
- Audio calls (1-to-1 calls)
- Video calls (1-to-1 calls)
* Letter Sealing is currently not applied to video and audio data sent as downloadable files (attachments).
■ Letter Sealing Exception
In the following cases, a part of user communication can be sent to LINE servers
Website preview (aka PagePoker): To generate the website preview in the chat room, URLs will be sent to the PagePoker server. Such URLs are processed solely for the purpose of preview generation. Users can opt-out of this function in the settings. (Settings → Chats → URL previews)
Spam report: When a user wants to report a spam issue, the suspicious part of the chat message will be sent to the server for investigation. The message is sent to the server only if the reporter consents.
■ Deployment Status Summary by Features
- *5 To generate a sticker with a custom wording of a user's choice, the user's client needs to talk to the rendering server. The text communication between the client and the rendering server is protected by E2EE. But the result image will be protected by transport layer encryption only.
|E2EE||Partial E2EE||Transport layer encryption|
Text and location messages
Google Next-gen assistant
|Custom Sticker Plus*5||
Media file messages
Custom Stickers (non-Plus)
LINE social plugin
■ Requirements for using Letter Sealing
For Letter Sealing to be applied to supported message types, all communicating users (all group members for LINE groups) need to have Letter Sealing enabled. If any of the communicating users disables Letter Sealing, only transport-level encryption is applied.
■ Letter Sealing Versions
The original version of LINE messaging end-to-encryption protocol, released in 2016, is referred to as Letter Sealing v1. While v1 provides end-to-end encryption for both 1-to-1 and group chats, several protocol-level attacks that could potentially lead to message forgery and user impersonation were reported via our Bug Bounty Program by Takanori Isobe (University of Hyogo, Japan) and Kazuhiko Minematsu (NEC Corporation, Japan). We verified that the attacks are not practically feasible due to additional server-side checks and restrictions implemented in LINE's messaging servers. In order to improve the security of our users and avoid potential future attacks against Letter Sealing, we developed E2EE v2 in collaboration with the researchers. Details about E2EE v2 can be found in our Encryption Whitepaper.
E2EE v2 was deployed in October 2019 to all major LINE clients. The table below shows the minimum version of each LINE client required to support E2EE v2.
|LINE for iOS/iPad OS||8.15.0|
|LINE for Android||8.17.0|
|LINE for Mac/Windows||5.12.0|
|LINE Chrome Extension/ChromeOS||2.2.0|
|LINE Lite for Android||2.6.0|
■ E2EE v2 usage status
E2EE v2 has been deployed for about a year. Since then E2EE v2 is gradually replacing E2EE v1. The graph above shows the ratio of E2EE v2 in the total E2EE traffic. Now more than half of E2EE communication is on v2, and the ratio is getting increased.
(4) Forward Secrecy Deployment Status
Forward Secrecy is enabled in some LINE usage environments. Even if one of the parties' long-term private key is leaked or compromised, Forward Secrecy guarantees that messages encrypted before the time of compromise are still protected. Currently, only some of the LINE's communication channels support Forward Secrecy.
■ Forward Secrecy for LINE Client-Server Communication (forward-secure in case of LINE server key compromise)
- 2017/9 ◯ Supported for major clients *6
- 2016 △ Partially supported *7
*6 May not be supported depending on OS and LINE client version / *7 Supported for some regions and client versions
■ Forward Secrecy in Letter Sealing (forward-secure in case of per-device private key compromise)
- Not supported