Home Health Why the Swiss army chose Threema (but did not ban WhatsApp)

Why the Swiss army chose Threema (but did not ban WhatsApp)

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The news that the Swiss army is starting is gaining visibility from the first day of this 2022, has chosen the Swiss application Threema for the exchange of information in real time. News that needs to be tempered a little, because the Swiss federal administration has been integrating the same app into its communication protocols for months, which in fact is now also being extended to the army.

The idea that the 147 thousand soldiers cannot use other applications (including WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal, just to name the most popular) is misleading, as he confirmed. Daniel Reist, a spokesman for the Swiss armed forces: “This is an optional choice, the military cannot force soldiers to install anything on private devices, but service information will only circulate via Threema.”

The army has been deployed to various parts of Switzerland to support health care in the midst of the Covid-19 emergency and the typical communication model, that is, the one according to which graduates give orders directly orally, is skipped. The pandemic does not spare the Swiss Confederation, which on 10 January, with 63 thousand infections (out of 8.6 million inhabitants), experienced a peak of cases Without precedents. The exchange of service information, therefore, will only take place via Threema.

To imagine that Swiss soldiers will not be able to use the messaging apps they usually use once they have put on their gray-green clothes is false: if they want to receive service information, they will have to install Threema, the cost of which (4 francs, ie 3.80 euros) will be absorbed by the state. Beyond that, it is interesting to understand why the federal authorities have chosen this app.

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It is not a patriotic choice
Threema is developed by a Swiss company, so it is natural to wonder how much the army was one choice of flag. Reist explained the choice based on 3 cardinal principles. The first is that Threema’s servers physically reside in Switzerland and therefore are not subject to the rules of the Cloud Act, the package of American laws that clashes with article 48 and Recital 115 of General Data Protection Regulation (the so-called Gdpr) and allows US law enforcement, authorities and intelligence agencies to acquire data from cloud operators, subject to certain conditions, anywhere in the world. Furthermore, Threema can be used without disclosing personal data of users and, last but not least, it is subject to the GDPR.

Threema, as confirmed by the White Paper on Cryptography, deletes messages from servers as soon as they are delivered to recipients. By virtue of end-to-end encryption, it is virtually impossible for anyone other than the actual recipient to decrypt and read the message. All the data necessary for communication through Threema are anonymized thanks to hashing techniques, which convert the words of a text into an alphanumeric code, thus making them not decipherable.

Last but not least, the encryption keys, useful to encrypt and decrypt messages, are generated on users’ devices and are neither stored nor communicated to Threema servers, on which the identifiers of the users who have communicated with each other are not even saved. Additionally, Threema uses cryptographic primitives (the combinations upon which security protocols are built) numerically higher than any other messaging application snapshot. This device makes the security with which users can communicate with each other more robust.

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The numbers of Threema
To understand what Threema’s market is, we made use of the collaboration of Roman Flepp, head of marketing for the Pfäffikon-based company (in the Canton of Zurich), who explained to us that there are 10 million users, mainly concentrated in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Threema Works, a messaging platform designed for companies, is used by around 7,000 companies and, according to Flepp, “is the most used all-European messaging app”. While WhatsApp and Signal have clear US origins, Telegram, although founded by Pavel Durov, of Russian origin and also linked to Italy, is based in Dubai.

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