The Department of Homeland Security is planning to conduct research on end-to-end phone call encryption and considers the current telecommunications network insecure, a research official said.
The research on end-to-end phone call encryption will have an eye on creating a platform for the government to communicate for unclassified and official use calls, Vincent Sritapan, a program manager at the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate told Fifth Domain.
The comments were made during the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas.
“We know that it is a risk area and we know that it is a a challenge. Whether it is financially feasible to do it, even if the technology exists today and we are all going to agree multilaterally on one system, that is a little hard,” Sritapan said. “There are both policy challenges and financial challenges that are there, but we do understand it its a risk and threat area.”
Popular commercial applications like WhatsApp and Signal have the ability to secure phone calls, but there is no standard system for unclassified communications in the federal government.
A 2017 Department of Homeland Security report said that the current SS7 protocol that is used for most of the world’s telecommunications traffic has “significant weaknesses.” Messages can be "altered, injected or deleted.” There are “tens of thousands of entry points worldwide, many of which are controlled by countries or organizations that support terrorism or espionage,” the report said.
The U.S. government already has a standard voice communications system for messages that are secret and above, Sritapan said.
Justin Lynch is the Associate Editor at Fifth Domain. He has written for the New Yorker, the Associated Press, Foreign Policy, the Atlantic, and others. Follow him on Twitter @just1nlynch.