This story is over 5 years old.


After DNC Hack, Staffers Told to Use 'Snowden-Approved' App, Signal

Signal isn't only for scrappy hacktivists and privacy wonks.
Janus Rose
New York, US

Security and privacy advocates have long, and adamantly, recommended the end-to-end encrypted messaging app, Signal, as a go-to solution for secure mobile communications. Lately, the app seems to have broken into the mainstream, even making a recent appearance on Mr. Robot, USA Network's surprisingly tech-savvy series about hacker revolutionaries taking down a globe-dominating, evil megacorp.

But Signal hasn't only been the weapon of choice for scrappy hacktivists and privacy wonks.


In the tumultuous aftermath of the Democratic National Committee hack—the digital intrusion that led to the resignation of its controversial chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz—Vanity Fair reports that DNC staffers were specifically instructed to exclusively use the "Snowden-approved" app when saying anything about Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

The directive reportedly came down during a meeting at the DNC's campaign headquarters, in the weeks after the organization first learned it had been compromised by an unknown intruder, now represented by a person or group who calls themselves "Guccifer 2.0."

After leaked DNC emails were published to WikiLeaks, it was revealed that the organization had plans to diminish Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, in favor of his more institutionally-entrenched opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Two weeks after the breach went public, a memo was sent out to DNC staffers with instructions on how to download and use the app. Paranoia among employees has likely increased since then, as security experts and US spy agencies have insisted that Russia is the source of the hack, leading many to fear foreign meddling in the upcoming presidential election.

Russian plot or no, the DNC's use of encryption tools like Signal will come as relief to experts who have been pushing for better security hygiene among top-ranking political officials and others handling sensitive information.

Created in part with funding from the Open Technology Fund, Signal allows for end-to-end encrypted calls and text messages. All of its code is available online, and unlike email, is surprisingly resistant to forensic analysis and data breaches—though, like any tool, it's certainly not hack-proof.

Correction: The article originally stated that Signal was created with funding from US Department of State, and has been updated to reflect that funding came from the Open Technology Fund, a program of Radio Free Asia, which receives US government funding.