Encryption Tools Proliferate
Military-level security now can protect anyone’s information.
Encryption software that performs many of the func- tions supporting military command and control networks now is easily available to the public. Not only does it match what U.S. forces use, but also it includes end-to-end encryption and can be downloaded by anyone with Internet access. At
the end of 2015, estimates show that was
3. 2 billion people globally.
This development brings a number of
consequences. Among them, privately operated encrypted
messaging has become a known unknown. Mission planners now must consider both the increased capability of
widely dispersed organizations to operate anywhere under
cover and the increased difficulty of penetrating these
Encryption services and solutions are wide-ranging.
Internet-based applications, for example, can be obtained
from several sources, including mobile phones, for the
delivery of end-to-end encryption. Capabilities can
include chats, group conversations, proprietary applications, images, videos, phone messages and text files, all
available in more than 50 languages. These are offered on
demand and without development costs or capital investments. Typically included are safeguards against decryption and unauthorized access to files if removable media
are lost or misused.
The cost of a downloaded encryption service is negligible, and the service can be put to use quickly. Personnel
with minimal technical training can deploy it instantly for
improvised missions. Such services prevent third-party
access to communications both at points of origin and
at destinations. If encryption keys from a user’s device
are captured, transmitted messages cannot be traced or
With end-to-end encryption applications, files can be
exchanged between authorized people. Eavesdroppers
cannot access the keys needed to decrypt any part of
the traffic. Telecommunications and encryption service
providers also cannot gain access and are excluded completely by an unbreakable 256-bit encryption.
End-to-end protection is crucial. An organization can-
not afford to lose data because of hacking or compatibility
issues with encryption solutions. For truly enterprise-
ready security and privacy, data must be individually
wrapped in a sealed software enclosure that is completely
independent of any software through which it passes.
That means as an encrypted document moves in multiple
hops from its origin to its destination, protection is never
International business is embracing encryption on an
unprecedented scale. It has become the underpinning for
the installation of security safeguards by private organizations as well as government agencies. Because of recent
incidents, encryption protection has become a strategic
policy issue at the presidential level involving intergovernmental cooperation. To prevent damaging disclosures, top
security policy makers want to be certain that data will
be protected. Consequently, end-to-end encryption has
become a new requirement for all communications that
seek delivery privacy.
Increasingly, consumers desire such protection for their
own information. Many are turning to WhatsApp, a messaging service owned by Facebook that boasts more than
a billion users. The app has an end-to-end embedded
encryption option for handling messages, photos, videos
and documents. It prevents calls and emails from going to
the wrong recipients. People globally connect to WhatsApp
an estimated 4. 2 million times every minute, making the
detection of new users difficult.
WhatsApp depends on an open-source solution from
Open Whisper Systems, which allows users to create
custom versions of the app. Local modifications make
detecting versions of encrypted algorithms exceptionally
difficult. It is noteworthy that Open Whisper Systems has
received contributions from open-source contributors
and private funds. Financing has included grants from the
Open Technology Fund provided by the U.S. government.
Open Whisper Systems’ own encryption tools have been
downloaded to more than a million mobile phones and
integrated into several other messaging applications that
offer customized encryption services.
Other encrypted messaging apps include Viber, which
is bringing its service to more than 700 million people, and Telegram, which has more than 100 million
monthly users. The two are employed mostly in Middle Eastern and Pacific countries. Both have developed
their encryption algorithms as proprietary software that
blocks any modifications by developers, which limits
BY PAUL A.