Senate Given The Go-Ahead To Use Encrypted Messaging App Signal

from the feinstein,-burr-will-continue-to-use-AOL-chatrooms dept

Certain senators have repeatedly pushed for encryption bans or encryption backdoors, sacrificing personal security for national security in a move that will definitively result in less of both. Former FBI Director James Comey's incessant beating of his "Going Dark" drum didn't help. Several legislators always managed to get sucked in by his narrative of thousands of unsearched phones presumably being tied to thousands of unsolved crimes and free-roaming criminals.

It will be interesting if the anti-encryption narratives advanced by Sens. Feinstein and Burr (in particular -- although others equally sympathetic) continue now that senators can officially begin using an encrypted messaging system for their own communications.

Without any fanfare, the Senate Sergeant at Arms recently told Senate staffers that Signal, widely considered by security researchers and experts to be the most secure encrypted messaging app, has been approved for use.

The news was revealed in a letter Tuesday by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a staunch privacy and encryption advocate, who recognized the effort to allow the encrypted messaging app as one of many "important defensive cybersecurity" measures introduced in the chamber.

ZDNet has learned the policy change went into effect in March.

If this isn't the end of CryptoWar 2.0, then it's at least a significant ceasefire. Senators are going to find it very hard to argue against encrypted communications when they're allowed to use encrypted messaging apps. It's not that legislators are above hypocrisy. It's just that they usually allow a certain amount of time to pass before they commence openly-hypocritical activity.

This doesn't mean the rest of the government is allowed to use encrypted chat apps for official communications. Federal agencies fall under a different set of rules -- ones that provide for more comprehensive retention of communications under FOIA law. Congressional communications, however, generally can't be FOIA'ed. It usually takes a backdoor search at federal agencies to cut these loose. So, members of Congress using an encrypted chat app with self-destructing messages may seem like the perfect way to avoid transparency, but it's the law itself that provides most of the opacity.

If encryption's good for the Senate, it's good for the public. There's no other way to spin this. Even Trump's pro-law enforcement enthusiasm is unlikely to be enough to sell Congress on encryption backdoors. With this power in the palm of their hands, they're more apt to see the benefits of leaving encryption un-fucked with.

Filed Under: encryption, end to end encryption, messaging, senate, signal


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2017 @ 8:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why do people believe that AES is secure?

    The thing that really eludes me is how this false narrative of Open Source Encryption being MORE secure was ever accepted by anybody outside of the Open Source community. I mean, I understand that you guys reinforce each other with your (nearly) religious belief about the goodness of Open Source. There are some good things about Open Source. But SECURITY is NOT one of them!

    Fact: IBM and the US Government have been decades ahead of ANYTHING ever done by the Open Source community in the area of encryption. How do we know that? Documented history. DES. Walt Tuchman. IBM. Common sense.

    Fact: The US Government is serving the interests of the US Government in endorsing (and shaping) encryption standards. How do we know that? History and common sense.

    Fact: There is only so much work ANYONE is willing to do for FREE. Yes, religion, including Open Source religion, does inspire some people to work for free (at least a little). Sometimes even incredibly smart people (Linus is a Saint). But EVEN THEY are either (a) independently wealthy or (b) actually use their time to make money. There really are no other choices. So, where does more work get done, in the religious community, or the commercial community. The Commercial Community. How do we know that? History and common sense.

    How the argument that Open Source encryption is BETTER protection for your data survives is another one of the great FAKE NEWS stories of our time. Both IBM and the Government have a long documented history of LEADING in this area with SECRET SOLUTIONS. Leading by a lot. Because they pay for it. How do we know? History.

    Free/Open Source Encryption is Weaker than EVERY Commercial Alternative, by public demonstration, and think about it, common sense. It really is IMPOSSIBLE to pay for a better scheme? Of course not. They're all better (provably), or they wouldn't sell (billions of $).

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