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Wednesday, 13 October 2021 18:13

CIA investment arm ploughs US$1.6m into secure messaging app Wickr Featured

CIA investment arm ploughs US$1.6m into secure messaging app Wickr Pixabay

The CIA has invested US$1.6 million (A$2.2 million) in the company behind the secure messaging app Wickr, through its investment arm In-Q-Tel, the American website Motherboard reports, citing public disclosure records as a source.

A white-labelled port of the app is believed to have been used in the An0m devices which intelligence agencies employed in a sting operation that targeted criminal gangs and finally took some of them down, with the Australian Federal Police also playing a role.

The Motherboard report said the CIA investment had been made before Amazon acquired Wickr in July this year.

Apart from the CIA investment, Wickr has a separate product developed for the US Department of Defence and a US$900,000 contract with the US Customs and Border Protection.

Australians would recall that back in 2015, when Malcolm Turnbull was prime minister, he was given the green light to use Wickr. A report said this came shortly after he admitted to using a private email server for communications, including messages related to government business.

Turnbull had also pushed for his cabinet to use the Slack messaging app, a report said in October 2015. 

Messages sent on Wickr self-destruct after a specified period of time. Downloads of the app increased markedly after the news that Turnbull uses it was made public.

Turnbull has shown an interest in putting money into similar projects, having invested in Kasada, a company in which the CIA has an investment. He has also invested in the industrial control systems security specialist Dragos, which is run by ex-NSA alumnus Robert Lee.

In-Q-Tel operates largely in the shadows, according to an article about the organisation in The Wall Street Journal.

More recently, an organisation called Recorded Future, backed by CIA funds, has set up a tech news site called The Record. Recorded Future has a US$20 million fund "to invest in organisations who share our vision for a world secured by intelligence".

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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