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French Government App Shows Difficulties with Secure Communications

French Government App Shows Difficulties with Secure Communications
April 24, 2019
Tchap

A messaging app released by the French government to secure internal communications has gotten off to a troubled start.

Tchap was released in beta earlier this month as a secure messaging app exclusively for government officials. Its development and release was made to address security concerns and data vulnerabilities in more widely used apps including WhatsApp and Telegram (a favorite of French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron).

WhatsApp Meet “What Were You Thinking?”

Tchap was built with security in mind, and was initially touted as being “more secure than Telegram.” Man plans and God laughs. The app was hacked within less than a day of its release. Elliot Alderson, the hacker who discovered the initial security vulnerability, subsequently found four more major flaws in its code, and confirmed with the app’s developer that no security audit was performed on the app prior to release.

DINSIC, the government agency responsible for Tchap, issued a press release stating that the software “will be subject to continuous improvement, both in terms of usability and security,” and has since announced a bug bounty for further vulnerabilities.

The French government’s attempts at creating a secure messaging alternative highlights a cybersecurity conundrum. Recent incidents including the allegations of Chinese government “backdoors” in telecom giant Huawei’s hardware and confirmed NSA backdoors in Windows software have left governments and businesses increasingly wary of using software or hardware developed or data stored internationally. At the same time, development of in-house or “proprietary” solutions are significantly more resource-intensive and not necessarily more secure than their more widely used counterparts.

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