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Calls between the House and Senate should be encrypted, lawmakers say

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Calls between the House and Senate aren’t encrypted

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

A group of senators, led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), is demanding that all calls between the Senate and the House of Representatives be encrypted, according to a new letter obtained by The Verge.

In the letter dated Tuesday, a bicameral group of Republicans and Democrats requested that the House sergeant at arms and the chief administrative officer “take immediate action to secure telephone calls” between both the House and Senate. The group of 20 lawmakers, including Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), are asking that the officials provide a plan to secure calls by June 12th.

“Calls between the Senate and House are still vulnerable to spying by anyone who gains access to the data connection between the two Chambers,” the lawmakers wrote. “Congress must secure itself from the serious threat posed by foreign spies.”

There are currently no legal requirements for calls to be encrypted in transit. Voice calls made over IP networks are typically encrypted, but implementation varies greatly depending on the infrastructure of specific systems.

In August 2018, the Senate enabled phone encryption features into its desk phones, and calls made on “more recent models” of desk phones in the House are also secured. According to the letter, the Pentagon’s Defense Information Systems Agency advised government agencies from the federal, state, and local levels to “work towards protecting their unclassified networks by applying encryption technologies” in February 2019. Since then, the Pentagon has moved toward bulk data encryption.