Why Malcolm Turnbull has been accused of “treating national security with contempt”

Image courtesy: 360b / Shutterstock.com Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his most senior cabinet ministers are using a third-party messaging application

Image courtesy: 360b / Shutterstock.com

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his most senior cabinet ministers are using a third-party messaging application to conduct confidential discussions, prompting cyber security experts to warn the innovation could actually pose a security risk.

WhatsApp is also being used by senior cabinet members, government chiefs of staff, media advisers and a ‘broadcast group’ used by Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne to chat between staff, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The founder of security consultancy firm Hivint, Craig Searle said WhatsApp was not an approved platform on the ASD (Australian Signals Directorate) and should not be used in place of secure government email. Apple’s iOS operating system and Blackberry’s operating system were on the ASD list of Evaluated Products or Certified Cloud Services.

“Should government be using secure messaging apps? Yes, they are a great idea. But for government staff in particular, they have to be cognisant of data classification requirements, they should behave securely and use products on the Australia government’s certified list,” he said.

“If a government employee were to transfer classified data across a non-approved app or network, that could be a potential security breach.”

WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, with which it has recently shared more user data of its close to one billion people database.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute cyber security expert Tobias Feakin said despite WhatsApp trumpeting end-to-end encryption – which secures a message once it is sent from one phone, via a server, to another phone – risks remained.

“The risk of WhatsApp is at either end of the cycle, on the sending device or receiving device. People can misplace a device and then it can potentially be accessed. Then there is phishing – someone clicking a link or opening an attachment [in the app] which downloads software,” Dr Feakin said.

“The headache for government is that this is a platform that rests outside government’s purview and that therefore poses some security risks.”

US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has faced months of criticism after it emerged she used a private email server while Secretary of State, a revelation which sparked a criminal investigation by the FBI and repeated attacks by Republicans and rival Donald Trump. Emails recovered from Mrs Clinton’s accounts and released by the US government have been the subject of intense media attention.

The use of the app also raises questions about whether the communications are covered by Australia’s Freedom of Information laws because the content of the messages are not stored on government servers – as emails are – but instead exist on an individual’s phone.

Do you think that Malcolm Turnbull and his ministers should avoid using this platform so they do not face a similar situation as Hillary Clinton is facing now?

  1. Janis  

    Turnbull’s just an idiot.

    And, we’re stuck with his, & his cohorts’ total incompetence, presumably, until 2019.

    God help Australia, with this ‘Richad Cranium’ at the helm!

    He’s wiling to let us be over-run by refugees’ from countries’ who don’t value OUR society, & our way of life.

  2. Rosanne Newton  

    Too true Janis. Maybe we are not stuck with them though. If enough people protested, I am sure we could force the issues. Too many people whinge and do nothing> BTW, I love the name “Richard Cranium” and I can think of another apt name “penile prosboscis”.

  3. John Borlini  

    Malcom Turnbull and his government have seen this country sold of with free trade agreement’s sold of the jobs of thousands of Aussie workers have taken us from a confident country and people to a self doubting insecure country and peoples and a divided country as well and the bloody experts are worried about the prime minister is about to cause concern for he countries security because of using a third party application to communicate.
    For heavens sake these buffoons have already caused this country maximum troubles and heart ache and I think your concerns are a tad to late

  4. rikda  

    This is an apolitical statement.
    Our parliament is full of academics with little talent apart from analyzing legal paraphernalia.
    Building high speed rail network or an airport is beyond them
    Flood & Drought mitigation is beyond them.
    In fact, as we saw with the previous Government being ripped off by the shonks, they didn’t know what a building cost & just hand over fist, paid the bill.
    “Paying peanuts & getting monkeys” has died a natural death
    Let party politics pick the politician & you get rampant conflict of interest & over educated seat polishers.
    That’s where we’re at.

  5. Joan Marshall  

    Malcolm Turnbull has not been in as Prime Minister for long. I suppose we need to give him time but… the trend he is following is not good. I am a dyed in the wool Liberal voter because I believe in the policy but I am disappointed. To even contemplate a decision to the people on Gay rights is ridiculous costing the tax payer millions of dollars. Mr Turnbull give Gay people their rights and move on to more important issues for Australia and Australians.

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