Do mobile messaging apps have a role in government and the public sector?

September 14, 2018

The answer is: “Yes, but it depends on the app being used!”.

Public sector employees are no different to their private-sector counterparts in that they’re demanding more modern, mobile solutions for collaboration and communication. However, without clear direction from ICT leaders, many are becoming reliant on consumer-grade tools that put data, and digital compliance, at risk.

Office building windows

Whether it be the need for security agencies to coordinate a response, or government officials conducting ministerial business, the role of messaging, collaboration, and communication technologies in government and the public sector has become a hot topic.

In fact, only recently the German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, spoke out in favor (story in German) of a standardized smartphone messenger service for federal security agencies, who remain reliant on dated, and unreliable radio-based technology.

Clear ICT leadership is required

The challenge is that many federal agencies and government departments have found themselves in something of a technology vacuum, relying on legacy technology, while struggling to balance their need for security with the flexibility, availability, and mobility afforded by mobile apps.

Unfortunately, this vacuum is often filled with consumer-grade solutions such as WhatsApp – despite many government departments banning its use.

There also seems little in the way of international agreement on what form of messaging and encryption technology is suitable for government and public sector use.

As an example, last year, the Australian government found itself under intense scrutiny after it emerged that sensitive data was potentially being shared through the platform by cabinet ministers. On the other side of the planet – at almost the same time – the UK’s public health service (the NHS) relaxed its rules over the use of Whatsapp. A strange decision given previous guidance issued only weeks prior, stating that the service “should never be used for the sending of information in the professional healthcare environment”, because of security concerns.

It’s this indecision, and lack of any officially mandated solutions, that can cause staff uncertainty and create environments where multiple, uncontrolled, solutions are in use.

In fact, some view the NHS’ turnaround not as a considered move, but as a knee-jerk reaction to the 2017 WannaCry ransonware attack that shut down huge parts of the UK’s health service.

While it’s true that a standalone secure messenger service can prove vital in maintaining business continuity when a network has been compromised; concerns over Whatsapp’s GDPR compliance make it a questionable choice for the largest public sector body in the UK.

It’s a familiar story in enterprise

While wanting to meet staff needs for more mobile, collaborative workplace tools, enterprise CIOs and CIROs have never been fully comfortable with seeing free, consumer-grade messaging tools like Whatsapp being used in their business for sharing confidential information or client data.

It seems, however, that the tide is turning as businesses and government organizations become more aware of their data confidentiality obligations. Today, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp are among the most blacklisted apps in enterprises!

manhattan from the air 2

This is one of the reasons why Wire is quickly becoming the messaging platform of choice for organizations looking to preserve the integrity of their data, and ensure continuity in the event of an incident that compromises network availability.

With Wire - consumer grade tools can be consigned to the trash!

Wire’s industry-leading security architecture protects all communication — messages, calls, shared documents — with end-to-end encryption. Message encryption keys never leave the device and are changed for each message for maximum security.

Rasmus Holst, CRO, Wire


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