The European Commission has told its staff to switch to the encrypted Signal messaging app in a move that’s designed to increase the security of its communications. Politico reports that, earlier this month, a message on the commission’s internal messaging boards notified employees about the change. “Signal has been selected as the recommended application for public instant messaging,” the message to the EU’s executive branch says.
According to Politico, Signal will not be used for all communication. Encrypted emails will be used to send non-classified but sensitive information, and classified documents use tighter security measures still. Signal, meanwhile, is intended to be used for external communications between staff and people outside the organization.
The initiative comes as the EU is attempting to lock down the security of its communications in the wake of high-profile hacks. In June 2018, BuzzFeed News reported that the European Union’s embassy in Moscow had been hacked and had information stolen from its network. Later that year, The New York Times reported that the EU’s diplomatic communications network had been hacked over the course of a three-year period in a display of the “remarkably poor protection” given to official communications.
The European Commission is not the only governmental body to tell its staff to switch to Signal. Last December, The Guardian reported that the UK’s ruling party, the Conservatives, told its MPs to switch to the service from WhatsApp. At the time, there was speculation that the switch was done in order to take advantage of Signal’s disappearing messages feature to stop leaks like those the party saw while using WhatsApp. However, a party spokesperson claimed it was because its recent influx of newly elected MPs meant that it had exceeded WhatsApp’s maximum group size.
Signal is generally considered to be one of the most secure messaging apps available. It’s open source, uses end-to-end encryption by default, and unlike WhatsApp, it doesn’t store any message metadata or use the cloud to back up messages. Edward Snowden said at one point that he uses it every day, and it even has the backing of one of WhatsApp’s original co-founders.