The Swiss army has banned its personnel from using WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal. The ban also extended to other foreign encrypted instant messaging services. In place of these apps, the army suggests that the personnel use the Swiss messaging app Threema, which offers more data protection.
Do you want to develop proactive strategies to deal with evolving cybersecurity threats? LIFARS can help you in this regard. It offers several services such as comprehensive gap assessment, penetration testing, threat hunting, red-teaming, and vulnerability assessment.
The annual subscription cost of Threema is $4.40 per user. However, the Swiss army pledged to cover the fee on behalf of the army personnel. On December 29, 2021, the Facebook page of the Swiss military also promoted the service. It characterized the app as end-to-end encrypted that leaves no digital trace. But until recently, before the WhatsApp ban, there were no regulations for the army personnel not to use foreign instant messaging apps.
The Ostensible Reason behind Switching to Threema
The Swiss army opted for a locally-developed app amid concerns about legislation in Washington. The U.S Cloud Act permits U.S authorities to access data stored by tech companies that fall under U.S jurisdiction. The U.S service providers, including WhatsApp and others, have to comply with search warrants, even if the location of the servers is outside the U.S.
Some service providers only display registration dates, but others are willing to share email addresses, IP addresses, phone numbers, limited message content, and more. On the contrary, Threema does not oblige users to provide an email address or phone number when a user opts for the app registration. As a result, publicly available data cannot determine the identity of a user.
That said, BleepingComputer, a technology-covering news site, reported that Swiss lawyer Martin Steiger had hinted at the lobbying of the Swiss companies. Martin believes that the WhatsApp ban and the promotion of Threema have occurred partly because of the lobbying of the Swiss companies. Nevertheless, the new regulation instructed by the Swiss military in late December has come into effect since the start of the current year.
The Advantage of Threema
Since Threema is a locally-developed app, the U.S Cloud Act does not apply. Since the Swiss company isn’t hosting its servers in the U.S., it will not be required to respond to search warrants issued by U.S courts.
On its website, Threema claims to be open source and keep all communication end-to-end encrypted. The tech company, boasting about 10 million users, also produces limited user data.
It is worth noting that the alliance between Switzerland and the U.S is close, particularly between their intelligence services. However, the military institution and the information they store are sensitive, particularly the data that deals with national security. In that sense, there is nothing worn with the Swiss army’s move regarding the WhatsApp ban.
Swiss army bans WhatsApp at work
Swiss army prohibits all messaging apps but locally-developed Threema
Swiss army recommends homegrown messaging service in place of foreign apps
Swiss Army bans WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram