In consideration of stronger cybersecurity, the European Commission has announced early this month that it is instituting an encrypted messaging app for staff communication. They will be using Signal, which works like Facebook’s WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage, but has encrypted features. Signal is favored by privacy activists and privacy experts, as they consider the application’s security superior to other applications. Its website reads,
“We can’t read your messages or see your calls, and no one else either.”
Signal is also different than WhatsApp in that it uses “open source” technology. What is open source technology? Open source technology uses software with source code – the part of the software that computer programmers can manipulate – that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance. Thus, it allows the software authors to make its source code available to others who would like to view, copy, learn, alter or share it, which encourages collaboration.
The European Union has decided to institute Signal for their staff communication medium after a some severe, shocking cybersecurity incidents in diplomatic exchange:
In December 2018, a cybersecurity research firm, Area 1 Security, found that thousands of diplomatic cables were downloaded from EU’s COREU (or Courtesy) system which allows the exchange of day-to-day information.
In June 2019, it was discovered that there was a cybersecurity breach in 2017 on EU’s delegation in Moscow.
The decision to use Signal indicates the EU Commission’s move towards increasing cybersecurity. Such a move, however, puts pressure on the law enforcement community on the issue of allowing government agencies to additionally access encrypted messages. American, British, and Australian government agencies have been interested in accessing Facebook’s and Apple’s messages, and have called upon the messaging companies to reverse their plans to encrypt their messaging services.
However, when thinking about cybersecurity and reducing the severe risk of compromising sensitive and confidential communications, cybersecurity officials are against the weakening of encryption. In worldwide concerns with cybersecurity, it seems a logical next step to use encrypted messaging systems where confidential and sensitive information is being exchanged.
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