Messaging services are incredibly useful. Work colleagues, school classes, and families can form groups and easily set up chats. It is no surprise that the three biggest and most popular messaging apps in the world are used by around four billion people. Anyone who has come to appreciate the benefits of this form of communication in their private life is likely to want to replicate that experience in a work setting. The police force in the German state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) is one example. Since they handle sensitive information, they need to be particularly aware of cyber security, which is why they chose stashcat as their messaging service. Renamed “Niedersachsen Messenger – NiMes,” the service now helps emergency teams coordinate their activities even more efficiently at the scene of an accident or during mass events. Germany’s THW civil protection organization also uses stashcat as its instant messenger under the name “hermine@THW”. This messenger was also used during Storm Bernd in the summer of 2021 to share information on coordinating the efforts of 33,000 emergency volunteers.
Messenger and video conferencing – now also highly secure
Messenger services and video conferences have become an essential part of working life for many people. They make communication easier within teams and with business contacts all over the world. But a number of concerns remain: where are the servers located, how secure is the data, and how serious are the cyber risks? In particular, government authorities and companies in security-critical sectors are restricted in their use of popular platforms such as WhatsApp and Zoom or cannot use them at all. G+D subsidiary secunet Security Networks AG provides a wide range of solutions for highly secure digital communication, with strict levels of confidentiality maintained at all times.
In total, 1.3 million people, mainly in public authorities, schools, police, armed forces, rescue services, and the healthcare sector, use stashcat. Stashcat was acquired by secunet in 2021. “We have thus added a highly secure messaging service to our portfolio, which is suitable for confidential data of particular importance,” says Norbert Müller, head of the Public Authorities division at G+D subsidiary secunet. Stashcat began as a startup in 2015, founded by Christopher Bick and Felix Ferchland. “We wanted to combine ease of use with high security standards,” recalls Bick. The result was a messenger that offers numerous advantages for teamworking and cyber security. Because stashcat is based in Germany and hosted in a German data center, it meets all data protection requirements and is fully compliant with the GDPR. Major users can even run stashcat on their own servers if required. The transmitted data is encrypted from end to end and therefore extremely well protected against hacker attacks. In addition, stashcat – unlike rival products – does not harvest data: “We use only the absolute minimum of user-related data, have no access to users’ personal address books, and do not pass on the cell phone numbers of contacts,” says Bick.
stashcat can even be expanded into a complete collaboration platform, with integrated file storage, a group calendar, survey tool, and more features for professional teams or other groups of people wanting to share information. Users can access the applications on desktop computers, on the Internet, and through native apps for iOS and Android devices. stashcat gives public authorities and organizations that deal with security matters the option to take a mobile-first approach to communication.
“We’re already using our newly acquired stashcat product internally at secunet, right up to the highest management level,” says Müller. More uses are still being found for stashcat: secunet plans to incorporate it into the highly secure SINA® Workstation, which already enjoys a strong reputation in the market. Public authorities, the military, and others will then be able to share highly sensitive information via messenger. “This will significantly expand the functionality of the SINA® Workstation, which has been installed hundreds of thousands of times across public sector organizations,” says Müller.
All messengers are not the same – when it comes to a secure, data privacy-compliant service
The world’s three biggest messenger services estimate that four billion people use their products, meaning that half the global population are their customers. The speed and convenience of communicating online in this way with colleagues, friends, and family make these services extremely popular. But few users think about the downsides, such as a lack of data protection and data harvesting by operators. However, there are alternatives. So how do highly secure messengers such as stashcat differ from mainstream messengers?
Germany’s public authorities communicate securely thanks to SINA®
SINA® (Secure Inter-Network Architecture), which was developed by secunet, supports public authorities that have tough security requirements, including secure telephony. Remember the red telephone in old political thrillers and spy movies? The modern version of that is the SINA® Communicator H – perhaps not quite as iconic, but featuring state-of-the-art technology. “The desk phone ensures tap-proof communication within offices, between public authorities, and even across international borders. You can call people at different classification levels up to SECRET and in the future, you’ll also be able to chat, send data, and make video calls – in the same way you currently do in the normal working world,” says Norbert Müller, head of the Public Authorities division at secunet.
The German Foreign Office is one of the customers won over by what SINA® has to offer. With support from secunet, the government department is working on a digital foundation for communication of classified information in the future. “We’re setting new technology and security standards for collaboration at the national level,” says Dr. Sven Stephen Egyedy, Chief Information Officer at the Federal Foreign Office. The department is not only thinking of itself and its extensive network of embassies and consulates all over the world, it is also set to become a service center for the entire federal government, with responsibility for highly secure official communication of classified information up to the classification level SECRET. As well as solutions for telephone calls and video conferencing, the SINA®-based infrastructure includes a digital document management system, all embedded in its own secure cloud. “This enables us to work together flexibly, digitally, and efficiently even when dealing with confidential government business. We’re also taking an important step towards digital sovereignty by retaining full control of our processed and stored data,” says Egyedy.
Digitalization and future viability are thus becoming a reality. The development teams are already thinking about the step after next: post-quantum cryptography. “These encryption algorithms are so sophisticated that they cannot be broken, even by the quantum computers that are expected to be available in the medium term,” says Jan Leduc, Head of Product Management at secunet.
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