In encryption push, Senate staff can now use Signal for secure messaging

Senate staffers can now use what is widely considered the world's most secure messaging app.

The US Senate just got a little bit more secure.

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.

The news comes just a week after the Senate's move to switch every page on its domain to HTTPS by default, a long-awaited upgrade that took more than a year to complete.

Read also: Secure messaging: Signal's the best, and then there's the rest | How the founder of the Silk Road made millions on his illegal startup on the Dark Web (TechRepublic) | Rich? This ransomware will charge you more to unlock your encrypted files | The uncrackable problem of end-to-end encryption

The Senate is just the latest across the political world to embrace the popular end-to-end encrypted messaging app.

In fact, many in politics -- in all branches of government, federal, and local -- have taken security more seriously following the hacks that hit the Democratic National Committee during last year's election season, which led to the leaking of thousands of emails to WikiLeaks. Aides close to the New York governor and the mayor are known to be avid users of the app.

But, more recently, aides to President Trump were embroiled in a legal brouhaha that led to some unease about the use of the encrypted messaging app conflicting with presidential record-keeping laws, leading in part to the government's chief archivist issuing fresh guidance to the newly incumbent administration.

Members of the Senate won't have that problem, however -- because they're exempt.

A spokesperson for the National Archives and Records Administration said on the phone Tuesday that for the most part members of Congress are permitted to do as they wish with their records so long as they are not "historically valuable," such as committee documents. That's in contrast to workers of the federal government and those who work directly with the president, both of whom are governed by federal and presidential record-keeping laws.

It's not known which senators and their staff have embraced Signal beyond staff in Wyden's office -- but it would be interesting to find out. Feel free to get in touch.

Contact me securely

Zack Whittaker can be reached securely on Signal and WhatsApp at 646-755–8849, and his PGP fingerprint for email is: 4D0E 92F2 E36A EC51 DAAE 5D97 CB8C 15FA EB6C EEA5.

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