Message security in spotlight as 'Minister for Encryption' Turnbull reasserts importance of privacy

Efforts to improve the security of internal business information, particularly in the context of the government's push to improve its access to data, are driving new investments in secure communications tools as no less than Australia's Minister for Communications came out this week in support of using encrypted communications channels to protect sensitive information.

Speaking in response to revelations that attorney-general George Brandis had been targeted by protesters that peppered him with messages after discovering his parliamentary email account was linked to his iPhone via Apple's iMessage service, communications minister Malcolm Turnbull said the incident highlighted the dangers of using insecure methods of communication.

Noting that “it's important to be aware of security”, Turnbull told the ABC that he preferred to use secure messaging applications like Wickr and WhatsApp to insecure options like SMS.

The revelations – which earned Turnbull the nickname 'Minister for Encryptino' and fed suggestions that Turnbull has used the app to secretly discuss a potential leadership spill with colleagues – put the minister on the other side of a growing push amongst Western governments that are increasingly seeking to get access to the contents of such secure messaging applications.

While Australia's government works to push through new data-retention laws focused on keeping telecommunications data available to law-enforcement bodies, the US National Security Agency is pushing for the legal right to read encrypted messages. British prime minister David Cameron has expressed similar desires, recently suggesting that his government could ban encrypted services like WhatsApp, iMessage and its ilk unless the government gains the ability to surveil their use.

Secure messaging applications have risen in prominence in recent years as the increasing use of mobile devices boosts demand for secure, instantaneous methods of communicating with friends and colleagues over non-persistent channels.

Enterprise mobility solutions provider Accellion, for example, this week announced it would join the secure-messaging fray by incorporating GENBAND's hosted Kandy communications tool to provide real-time secure communications.

Such tools will increasingly be integrated with enterprise business applications, providing highly secure conduits for communications. Recognising the need to maintain enterprise security while this happens, collaboration provider Metalogix also this week released the Insider Threat Index, a tool that scans Microsoft SharePoint collaboration environments for potential technology or governance gaps that might endanger the integrity of corporate communications.

IDC has put growth in the secure messaging market in the double digits annually, recently pegging it at 17.3 percent annual growth to be worth $US700 million ($A896m). Apple's iMessage was recently chosen by privacy advocacy group the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) as one of the best secure-messaging platforms, despite earlier claims by researchers that Apple's claims of iMessage security were “ basically lies”.

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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Tags data privacyiPhoneencryptturnbullsecure messagingWhatsAppWickrGeorge BrandisAustralia's governmententerprise business applicationsMalcolm TurnbulMinister for EncryptionApple's iMessage service

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