Government Needs to Get Serious About Text Messaging

Outrage over missing federal text and email communication is everywhere – starting with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and now President Trump and federal agents. 

From deleted and lost messages to illegal work-arounds, it’s not the fault nor the responsibility of telecom vendors or device providers, as some, including our President, have stated. The truth is our government is far too lax with its communication policies and is letting its employees get away with unregulated, unsecure and inappropriate communication via messaging technology.

This is downright scary for two reasons: without secured messaging, anyone with motivation can access sensitive information our government officials are communicating; and officials can easily “lose” or “delete” communication that may be illegal in nature or ethically compromising. 

The problem needs solving now! A joint study released by 451 Research and Infinite Convergence found that mobile messaging is the top activity for business use on mobile devices – even surpassing email and voice calls. The data also shows employees are using unsecure consumer messaging apps for mobile messaging and nearly three in four employees use consumer messaging apps for business purposes, which presents security risks that our government, from the local to the highest level, cannot afford to take.  

When employers don’t provide an enterprise messaging solution, employee productivity is lowered, and they take it upon themselves to find their own messaging solution without regard for security and other compliance requirements. If enterprise messaging tools are provided, employees will be more productive and employers will reduce security and compliance risk.

Not only is our government not using the proper messaging system to ensure a combination of enhanced productivity with regulatory oversight, compliance and auditing procedures, but it has created an environment where employees feel the already failing system is acceptable. Right now, our government officials know that there will be limited, if any, repercussions to the inappropriate ways they communicate, and they’re not afraid to cross the line because there is – for the most part – no risk to them.   

It is understandable why the movement towards messaging over email is happening. Messaging, not email, is the preferred mode of communication for millennials – the up and coming majority of our workforce. Messaging generally gets a more immediate response versus several hours or days for an email response. 

So, what is the solution in securing these messages? Deploy and implement messaging services that boast security, encryption, backup and auditing measures that fall in line with compliance and give employees no other option or work-around. 

Just recently, the White House Chief of Staff instituted new policies that prohibit the use of personal devices; similar policies are in practice in the State Department, but such policies need to become consistent and be enforced across all branches of government.

It’s time for the government to get serious and develop a widespread official electronic messaging policy tied to an officially managed, deployed and controlled messaging service. 

My colleague Jerry Kupsh, former director of messaging for Verizon Wireless, echoes the same sentiment. He said: “Our government has the ability to secure messaging on employee devices. The fact that they don’t have instituted policies and procedures in place is a security risk that shouldn’t be taken."

There is no denying mobile messaging is becoming the communication medium of choice in both personal and official business settings, especially among our government officials. The government needs to get more serious about providing secure, encrypted messaging platforms for employees and appropriately regulating their use. Otherwise, they are putting our national security at risk.

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?