Political World Embraces Encrypted-Messaging App Signal Amid Fears of Hacking
Aides close to President Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton use app as memory of Wikileaks scandal lingers
By MARA GAY
Jan 26 2017
Signal, a smartphone app that allows users to send encrypted messages, is gaining popularity in the political world amid rising fears about hacking and surveillance in the wake of a tumultuous election year.
Political aides close to President Donald Trump, former President Barack Obamaand former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are users. So are some close to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Some say the legion of political types has a singular goal to avoid a repeat of the WikiLeaks scandal, in which the emails of Mrs. Clinton and her closest allies were dumped onto the internet.
“Everybody learned the lessons of the Clinton campaign when it came to communicating about sensitive issues over email,” one former senior aide to Mr. Obama said. “No one wants to see that happen again.”
Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump, is on the app.
“I learned my lesson when my email got hacked in September. It was hell,” Mr. Stone said in an email. He said 30 years of contacts were destroyed and his personal and business bank accounts were compromised.
“I realized I needed a safer encrypted way to communicate—and NO I have never communicated with any Russians on Signal.”
Built by the San Francisco-based Open Whisper Systems, Signal is based on end-to-end encryption in which only those in direct communication can read the messages.
Signal has seen a roughly 400% increase in downloads since Election Day last November, said founder Moxie Marlinspike. He declined to say how many people use the app.
“It’s funny,” Mr. Marlinspike said. “In the past, people asked, ‘Are you worried terrorists are using it?’ Now they’re asking about politicians.”
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he has had the app for a few weeks. “One of my cybersecurity experts downloaded it for me,” Mr. Giuliani said.