Suck it, CIA.
The US Senate has gotten permission to begin using the encrypted phone app Signal, according to a congratulatory letter from Senator Ron Wyden’s office.
Wyden’s letter thanked Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank Larkin for approving the use of the messaging app, which was launched under the name TextSecure by Open Whisper System in 2010. Today, Signal also includes end-to-end encrypted voice and video chat, as well as a keen desktop app.
Signal gained new popularity in early 2015 after receiving an endorsement from Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor turned classified leaker.
“I write to you today to thank you, and to congratulate you and your staff for all of the hard work that undoubtedly went into this significant upgrade to the security of Senate websites,” wrote Wyden, who was also thanking Larkin’s office for advancing the transition to default HTTPS encryption on the US Senate’s member and committee websites.
“I am happy to see that you too recognise the important defensive cybersecurity role that encryption can play,” the Oregon senator added.
HTTPS, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, encrypts communications between internet browsers and websites, offering some protection against eavesdropping and session hijacking, that is, “man-in-the-middle” attacks. For many years, the Senate’s website did not support HTTPS, leading to a significant amount of groaning from its security-wise constituents. (Wyden unilaterally changed his own Senate website to default HTTPS about two years ago.)
The switch was first reported yesterday morning by ZDNet.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged Larkin in 2015 to permit the use of secure messaging apps for Congress, whose internal communications are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — though they have been hacked by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Congress’s ability to exercise its constitutionally required oversight over the executive branch is “only as robust as its independence from interference by other elements of the government, and its insulation from influence by bad actors outside government,” the ACLU noted.