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Democrats Embrace Wickr Encrypted Messaging After Email Hack

In the wake of the high-profile hack into the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DNCC) computer systems, House democrats have turned to Wickr, an end-to-end encrypted messaging software platform, multiple reports said.

The committee will use Wickr–which is positioned as a locked down, business option to the wildly popular Snapchat–both for internal messaging and communications between the DNCC and a number of campaigns of House Democrats, BuzzFeed reported. Wickr is the eponymous flagship product of the five-year old, San Francisco-based security developer.

Wickr was installed last June–the first such encryption messaging software used by political party committees, the report said. It’s not meant to replace email but rather to provide a secure way for legislators to communicate electronically that is visible only to the sender and the recipient.

Embracing Encryption: Ironic?

Interest in Wickr apparently sprung from a Russian hacking blitz during the 2016 presidential campaign that hit the DNCC and some House Democrats. Earlier this year, four U.S. intelligence agencies determined that hackers directed by the Russian government had made alarming inroads into the presidential election and had cracked into emails of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, her campaign chairman. The attack is currently under investigation by Congress and a special prosecutor.

There is some irony to legislators on either side of the aisle endorsing encryption messaging software for their own use when many of those same lawmakers have stridently called for new laws to compel technology companies to build back doors for government and law enforcement officials to gain access to devices and systems. In that sense, what makes the Wickr deployment particularly interesting is its indelible link to those arguments.

Encryption is a hot button both for lawmakers and law enforcement not just in the U.S. but elsewhere as well, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Indeed, Australia has formally proposed new laws that will force technology companies to grant government authorities access to encrypted messages. If adopted, the legislation will require device manufacturers and application developers to aid its law enforcement agencies to intercept and read messages sent by terrorism suspects.

Encryption, Privacy and Government Policies

Australia’s proposed security law is similar to other legislature under discussion in Europe, with British Prime Minister Theresa May recently calling for government access to every U.K. citizen’s online communication.

Last January, the security watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) posted an open letter in Wired magazine warning of technology overreaches by the Trump administration to undermine cybersecurity technology. Just last week, the EFF released its seventh annual “Who Has Your Back” report that found AT&T, Verizon and other telecommunications providers lagged behind technology companies in protecting users from government prying.

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2 Comments

Comments

    Chuck Taylor:

    I wonder why they didn’t opt for Threema, which is way more secure, can be used anonymously, and, as far as I know, also has a larger user base.

    Joe Panettieri:

    Chuck: Maybe the Republicans chose that one . 😉
    -jp

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