Because the MoD’s secure communication options aren’t working for everyone, soldiers are turning to Signal and WhatsApp

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from breaking-the-rules-to-stay-in-touch department

The military has a clear need for secure communications. He offered his support for encryption even as the NSA tried to find ways to undermine it to make its surveillance goals easier to achieve.

The problem is that the military doesn’t have a big plan for securing communications between personnel. Due to technological limitations that the Department of Defense has yet to overcome (despite billions of dollars in annual funding), soldiers are turning to third-party messaging services to communicate orders and disseminate information.

Use of the Signal encrypted messaging app is ubiquitous within the Department of Defense. Service members received operational security (OPSEC) and information security (INFOSEC) briefings and took seriously the dangers of living in a digital world by ensuring that work-related text messages qu they send to their cell phones is encrypted. The contradiction is that using Signal for official military business is against regulations.

Securing communications apparently means breaking the rules. The DoD prohibits the use of courier services not controlled by the DoD to manage the distribution of non-public DoD information. The Department of Defense insists that personnel use its services, but those services are not available to employees who do not have Army-issued cellphones. And everyone has a mobile phone, so it’s often easier to use third-party platforms to communicate.

When this happens, it increases the risk of unauthorized access or sharing of information. It also puts many communications beyond the reach of public records requests, which often cannot access communications between private devices.

And there doesn’t seem to be a solution on the immediate horizon. The Department of Defense is quick to point out that using Signal and WhatsApp violates regulations. But he has nothing in place that would allow the many service members who don’t have government-issued cellphones to communicate while in the field.

That’s what the Secretary of Defense’s public affairs officer (Russell Goemaere) told Audacy when asked how the military is supposed to use the DoD-approved communications platforms they don’t. had no real access on their personal devices.

“DoD365 provides an approved messaging capability for CUI and used on DoD mobile devices. The services are in the final stages of testing Bring Your Own Approved Device (BYOAD) and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) solutions that provide access to the DoD365 collaboration capability on service members’ personal devices,” Goemaere said.

It’s 2022 and the Department of Defense is only in the “final stages of testing” for the solutions it needed years ago. Cell phone use has been ubiquitous for nearly two decades at this point. That the Department is still weeks or months away from a solution should be considered unacceptable. Denying soldiers access to third party options means cutting them off from communications which can often have life and death implications.

It also means that the Department of Defense is still weeks or months away from ensuring that communications subject to FOIA law are captured and preserved. The priority should always be the safety of personnel, but that’s another downside to the slowness of the Department of Defense in the 21st century.

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Filed Under: dod, encrypted messaging, encryption, military, soldiers
Companies: meta, signal, whatsapp

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