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European Commission asks staff to delete WhatsApp and other chat apps, move to Signal for better security

The European Commission (EC) wants its staff that includes diplomats and senior EU officials to give up apps like WhatsApp and wants them to use Signal, which is considered a more secure messaging app, to communicate.

twitter-logo Yasmin Ahmed   New Delhi     Last Updated: February 25, 2020  | 18:38 IST
(Source: Twitter | Signal)

Highlights

  • The EC in one of its internal messaging boards has asked its staff to ditch apps like Facebook, WhatsApp and iMessage.
  • To communicate, the EC wants its staff to use Signal that is considered a safer messaging app.
  • The move reportedly comes because the phones of EU diplomats have been targeted in a bid to steam data from them.

WhatsApp may be the world's most used chat app with over 2 billion users but it seems it is not safe enough to be used by EU diplomats and officials. The European Commission has asked its staff to ditch many popular apps, including Facebook, WhatsApp and iMessage, that they are using and move to Signal. It is believed that Signal is more secure app, with better security practices as well as higher standards of encryption.

The message to the EC officials and diplomats was sent on an internal messaging board, report Politico, a website that often covers news coming out of EU institutions. The EC reportedly notified its employees by stating Signal has been selected as the recommended application for public instant messaging.

Signal is an app developed in 2013 by privacy activists. It even got nod from NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden and later it got financial backing from WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton after Acton left Facebook in 2017 that had acquired his chat app. In fact, after leaving WhatsApp and Facebook Acton has been fairly vocal about the data security practices employed by Facebook and has repeatedly said that people should delete Facebook app and for messaging should use Signal.

It is not right away clear why the EC made its recommendation for Signal at this moment, but it the past EU diplomats have faced data security scares. In 2017, a EU delegation suffered cyber security breach in Moscow when two computers were allegedly hacked to steal confidential information.

Then back in December 2018, research firm Area 1 Security had found thousands of diplomatic cables that were downloaded from EU's COREU system, which is used by national governments and EU institutions to exchange day-to-day information on foreign policy.

While both WhatsApp and Signal offer end-to-end encryption, Signal's code is open source and that gives it some advantage. What this means is that anyone can check the code of Signal and see whether all the claims it is making about its security are accurate or not.

"It's like WhatsApp and iMessage but it's based on an encryption protocol that's very innovative," Bart Preneel, cryptography expert at the University of Leuven told Politico. "Because it's open-source, you can check what's happening under the hood."

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