Nation Current Affairs 02 May 2019 Hyderabad: Netas, ba ...

Hyderabad: Netas, babus get ‘Signal’, ditch WhatsApp

Published May 2, 2019, 2:20 am IST
Updated May 2, 2019, 2:20 am IST
A message sent on Signal app automatically self-destructs in some time.
K. Chandrasekhar Rao
 K. Chandrasekhar Rao

Hyderabad: A top TRS leader, considered a troubleshooter for the party has, of late, been sending ‘signals’ to a top industrialist, considered close to Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, regarding the irrigation projects in the state.

Top IAS officers, police top brass, including those in the state Intelligence wings of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and even the Income Tax department have begun to send ‘signals’ to each other without having to worry about their ‘signals’ being tracked or monitored!


Moving on from Whatsapp and Telegram, several politicians and bureaucrats have, in the last 72 hours, switched over to Signal — a cross-platform encrypted messaging service developed by Signal Messenger.

While Signal was released on Android on April 28, on iOS it was released 24 days ago (April 5) and on desktop it was released on April 17.

“The design (of Signal) is such that it does not have a record of the contacts, conversation list and, importantly, your location. It also does not have group titles, user profile name etc and the end-to-end encrypted contents of every message and video call is protected by keys, which is entirely inaccessible even to Signal. The feature I like the most is that once you send a message to another Signal user, it automatically self-destructs in some time. Since we deal with a lot of sensitive matter, it comes in handy,” a top police official who switched over to Signal, told Deccan Chronicle.

Signal uses the internet to send one-to-one and group messages, which can include files, voice notes, images and video. Like Whatsapp, all calls are made over Wi-fi or data connection, are free of charge, including international calls. The new app also supports group messaging.

“Since all the communication (with other Signal users) is end-to-end encrypted, it is safe unlike Whatsapp, whose chats and calls can be monitored. So why invite trouble when you can communicate without having to worry about the conversations or calls being monitored,” another senior IPS officer said.

He added that today Intelligence agencies are well equipped with the latest gadgets, purchased mostly from Israel, which enables them to track and monitor Whatsapp chats and calls besides other apps, but Signal is still safe from the security and privacy point of view.

“Importantly, when it comes to Signal, there is end-to-end encryption for both text and voice messages. Neither Signal nor anyone else can see what is in the messages. There is also this feature where the Signal user can configure certain messages or threads to be automatically deleted after a set interval of time, like say five or 10 minutes. There is nothing that the recipient can do about it,” explains a Cyber crime expert in the Telangana state police.

Users have a secret code for messages
A top TRS leader, considered a trouble shooter for the party has, of late, been sending ‘signals’ to a top industrialist, considered close to Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, regarding the irrigation projects in the state.

He says that the screen security feature ensures that nothing can capture what is happening inside the Signal app and there is also this secret code between two users which ensures complete privacy.

The keys that are used to encrypt the user’s communications are generated and stored at the end points (i.e. by users, not by servers), which, experts say, makes it safe to use without being tracked.

The expert says that the same cannot be said about Telegram, though it is similar to Signal in many ways.

The protocol and APIs are open sourced but the core part of Telegram, particularly the server, is not, which is considered to be a privacy concern and therefore people are switching over to Signal. Telegram too has features which self destruct. But what is important to note here is that the back-end services of this app is not open sourced which means that no one can tell what happens to the messages once they reach the Telegram’s servers. Therefore, there is a possibility that Telegram, if required, will be able to go through the messages.

For law enforcement agencies, Signal can pose a new challenge as, so far, there are no tools available to monitor the calls or capture data. “Previously, all agencies thought Whatsapp data cannot be captured or the calls monitored. But now, many agencies have the gadgets to monitor Whatsapp calls and extract the chats. I feel that even with Signal, a day will come when a gadget is developed that can enable its monitoring,” a senior police official said.

Location: India, Telangana, Hyderabad