Australian politicians use Wickr and WhatsApp
Encrypted Political Turmoil, is a post I published in October 2016 reporting on the increasing use and popularity of secure communication apps, such as Wickr and WhatsApp, among leading Australian political figures including the Prime Minister. In the post, I referred to politicians opting to use such Cloud & Mobile non-Government-vetted technology with personal accounts, because such technology would offer a better communication security when compared to emails (my thoughts on email security). However, the use of such technology raised a concern with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner with regards to compliance with the Government Freedom of Information Act (i.e. no possible tracking of official communications). In addition, the media also reported some security concerns over the subject, enquiring whether Australian politicians were putting sensitive national information at risk through those personally subscribed communications apps? I also referred to Australian criminal organisations using the same technology, and that Wickr’s uptake would have increased by 700% since the reference of Malcolm Turnbull using it in Australia (good advertisement).
USA top political figures use the Signal app
The Wall Street Journal podcast An App All the Rage Among Hack-Fearing Politician published on January 24, 2017 reported a similar trend with the mobile app Signal used by top US politicians for the same reason as in Australia. Signal provides secure calls and secure instant messaging functions. Trump and aides were mentioned in the podcast. The download of the Signal App would have increased by 400% recently, especially during the 2016 USA presidential elections and even further boosted following the DNC email server hack, which exposed sensitive emails that may have influenced the course of the elections. Signal provides a more secure alternative to emails for asynchronous communication.
Bring Your Own Security, at your own risk
It would appear that politicians are no longer trusting traditional email security for their communications. This is very understandable. I think of emails as long storage postcards that can easily convert into media headlines and have an impact on politicians, political processes and other people’s lives and businesses.
I wonder how French politicians are currently feeling about their emails, their recent emails and their old emails stored somewhere. What would be the impact on French politicians and the upcoming French elections if some of those emails were compromised?Are French politicians also opting for personally subscribed secure commutation apps as an alternative to using emails for sensitive communications?
I certainly understand the need to use alternative, and more secure, communication options such as Signal, Wickr, SudoApp and WhatsApp. I use them. They provide a good Bring Your Own Security (BYOS) option for communications. However, those technologies are not immune to vulnerabilities themselves (e.g. WhatsApp vulnerability report), and they can present a risk. It could perhaps be a lesser risk at present (when compared to emails), but there is nonetheless still a risk. With more communications supported by new technologies and apps, the focus and the efforts of parties wanting to compromise those will also increase.