US Government plans unhackable alternative to WhatsApp
April 26, 2016
Shah Sheikh (1294 articles)

US Government plans unhackable alternative to WhatsApp

he US Government is planning to build an alternative to WhatsApp and iMessage that is practically unhackable.

Darpa, the advanced technologies arm of the US Department of Defense, posted an online request inviting candidates to “create a secure messaging and transaction platform accessible via a web browser or standalone native application”.

The notice points to the app’s use in military scenarios, such as communications between troops and bases, but also points to “commercialisation and full-scale implementation of the platform”.

It is unclear whether this means the proposed service is for consumers’ use, but other US government technologies have found their way into the public’s hands. Darpa was crucial to the development of the Arpanet, a precursor to the internet, and the anonymous internet network known as the dark web was developed by the US Navy.

Darpa’s notice requests an encrypted service using a decentralised ledger – a universal record of all activities on a service maintained by users, which prevents tampering with the system.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies rely on these ledgers.

“Executives could rest assured that their logistics system is efficient, timely and safe from hackers,” the notice says.

It also demands features such as self-destructing messages, or those that can be seen only once, and protocols that will prevent unauthorised access to previous messages.

Darpa warns that the US military’s current messaging services are unfit for the present day, with communications vulnerable to interception.

“Legacy messaging and back office infrastructures…are expensive, inefficient, brittle and subject to cyber attack. The overhead costs of maintaining such architectures is rising rapidly,” it says.

The attempt to build a new service comes despite criticism of encryption in some parts of the US government. WhatsApp recently introduced full end-to-end encryption, while Telegram and iMessage are also encrypted.

FBI General Counsel James Baker recently said that WhatsApp’s encryption “presents us with a significant problem” and that terrorists could “get ideas”.

Darpa has been at the forefront of other emerging technologies. It runs a robotics challenge in which developers must build robots that can navigate an assault course, and created a robotic arm that allowed a paralysed man to feel sensations in his fingers.

Source | Telegraph