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After 2016 Hacks, House Democratic Committee Switches To Encrypted Messaging

The DCCC has moved to Wickr, an end-to-end encrypted messaging system, for all internal communications. They're first to do so after a year in which hacking dominated the news.

Posted on July 18, 2017, at 7:31 a.m. ET

Gary Cameron / Reuters

DCCC chair Rep. Ben Ray Lujan leads congressional candidates offstage at the DNC last summer.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the target of last year's sweeping cyberattack on House Democrats, has transitioned to Wickr, an end-to-end encrypted software, for all internal communication and for communication between the DCCC and the 20 most vulnerable House incumbent campaigns.

The software, installed in June to guard against future hacks, now serves as the primary chat and message function inside the DCCC, said communications director Meredith Kelly. (Wickr is designed for offices and does not replace email.)

For the 20 incumbent campaigns, aka Frontline Democrats, staff and consultants will be expected to use Wickr with DCCC officials.

End-to-end encryption, designed to make data indecipherable to any third party, from the government to hackers to companies like Wickr, has been at the center of an easily inflamed debate touching privacy, tech, and security, without obvious partisan distinctions. (Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein takes perhaps the hardest line against encryption.)

The DCCC's shift to Wickr is a first among the party committees and a firm step against future hacks in a party still shaken by the cyberattacks during 2016.

At the DCCC, thousands of documents were made public in waves through summer and fall. Hackers targeted House Democrats across the country, releasing home addresses, cell phone numbers, candidate files, and opposition research.

Earlier this month, DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luján wrote to his counterpart at the National Republican Campaign Committee, Steve Stivers, proposing that the two groups work together against future attacks and devise a joint plan to combat interference in US elections. (The NRCC dismissed the suggestion as a “stunt,” the Washington Post reported.)

The DCCC's new software is a paid service. Kelly declined to provide a figure for the total cost.

Crowdstrike, the cybersecurity firm working for another hacking victim, the Democratic National Committee, is also monitoring DCCC systems daily.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.