Lawmakers urge colleagues to use encryption
May 24, 2016
Shah Sheikh (1294 articles)

Lawmakers urge colleagues to use encryption

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers are encouraging their colleagues to use end-to-end encryption to communicate.

“There are a number of easy-to-use applications that have end-to-end encryption for mobile communications. While this method is not foolproof, the use of these apps constructs a huge barrier to your communications being deciphered,” Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Will Hurd (R-Texas) wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter sent Monday.

The missive comes amid a bitter debate that has seen Congress divided over how much access law enforcement should have to encrypted communications. Some lawmakers have condemned firms like Facebook’s WhatsApp for rolling out end-to-end encryption, which prevents even the manufacturer from reading the content of users’ messages.

Lieu has been an outspoken proponent of strong encryption, which technologists insist is critical to protecting the security and privacy of everyday users of the Internet.

The California Democrat has said previously that he texts “to the extent possible” on WhatsApp and encourages his colleagues to do the same.

Lieu recently allowed hackers to tap into his iPhone using a vulnerability in the global network that connects cellphone carriers. The digital intruders were able to listen to and record his calls, view his contacts and track his movements. The exploit was featured on a recent “60 Minutes” episode.

Lieu has used the segment to push for a congressional investigation into the security flaw, and the two lawmakers cite it as a reason to turn to encrypted messaging platforms.

“There are numerous vulnerabilities throughout all communications platforms. Encrypting your voice and text data will go a long way towards mitigating the various risks we have identified,” they wrote.

The suggestion is part of a broader attempt by the two computer science majors to improve the security culture within the House of Representatives, just weeks after the House IT staff shut down access to Yahoo Mail and other services in response to increased cyberattacks on Capitol Hill networks.

“The ease with which foreign governments, criminal syndicates, and everyday hackers can access your smartphone, tablet, desktop or laptop is frightening,” the congressmen wrote. “Your devices will be subject to continuing cyber attacks.”

Lieu and Hurd laid out several other common practices that are considered good “cyber hygiene” by security experts, including using complex passwords and two-factor authentication.

Source | TheHill