Jun 27, 2024

Mode vs. Whatsapp & Signal for incident response communication

Mode vs. Whatsapp & Signal for incident response communication

A look into why CSIRT communication calls for a specialized solution rather than opting for consumer-grade messaging apps like WhatsApp or Signal.

"We're ready for a major cyber incident because we have a WhatsApp group."

We've heard this too many times from cybersecurity leaders. Even from organizations that spend millions on cybersecurity and incident response preparedness.

Although it's better to have "the WhatsApp group" as a back-up communication plan rather than nothing at all, cyber incident response is maturing, and consumer apps simply fall short in helping incident response (IR) teams overcome the unique challenges faced when conducting response and recovery work.

So, here's a look into why Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) communication — especially in enterprise settings — calls for a specialized solution rather than opting for consumer-grade messaging apps like WhatsApp or Signal.

Problem #1: They aren't managed by an administration portal.

Consumer-grade messaging apps weren't designed with corporate cybersecurity structures in mind. When an incident is declared, IR practitioners need to take control of the situation to guide the organization towards remediation and recovery. Without adequate control over encrypted communication environments, responders face unnecessary challenges in coordinating their teams.

For apps like WhatsApp and Signal, the absence of a dedicated administration portal means that cybersecurity practitioners struggle to enforce usage, compliance, and security policies during an incident, which is a crucial to best in class response efforts.

Meanwhile, platforms like Mode not only encrypt all communications but also offer an administration panel where cybersecurity teams can access controls to manage their IR communication channels. The Mode portal benefits practitioners at the front lines of a cyberattack by:

  • Easing deployment of back-up communication channels.
  • Controlling their team's private communication workspace for who can and cannot join.
  • Configuring communication and data security policies to align with organizational security directives.

Problem #2: They make deploying back-up communication challenging.

When the clock is ticking during a cyber incident, swift IR plan deployment is a cost saver. However, when primary communication channels are compromised, transitioning an entire incident response team to consumer apps like Signal or WhatsApp present logistical challenges.

  • Though it may be easy to manage a small IR group on Signal or WhatsApp, it's hard to scale that easily to more internal and external contacts in business continuity situations.
  • If IR team members aren't already added to a group prior to an incident, it can be more difficult to add additional contacts to these apps with no central invite and user management functionality.
  • Because these apps require phone numbers for account creation, they are tied to devices making it challenging to move communications to new devices if endpoints become compromised and unusable.

Conversely, Mode specializes in the rapid on-boarding of teams. Through streamlined deployment processes, Mode ensures that your entire incident response team can be communicating securely and efficiently within minutes. CSIRT leaders can pre-configure multiple app activation methods which allows their team members to activate Mode on new devices quickly and instantly start connecting with team members.

Problem #3: They create compliance and legal risk.

The use of consumer messaging apps in the enterprise setting is fraught with compliance and regulatory risks. The lack of granular control over message logging and the potential for data breaches does not align with the critical directives of the security team during a cyberattack.

With Mode, organizations can configure communication logging and retention policies that adhere to incident response requirements. The compliance tools Mode offers helps your team access the data and information from all Mode apps connected to your workspace for e-discovery during legal or insurance proceedings.

Problem #4: They leave critical communication to occur in open ecosystems.

Open ecosystems like WhatsApp and Signal, with their foundations built on network effects, enable anyone with your phone number to contact you. This increases the chances of your team being exposed to social engineering and phishing attacks.

In many cases, enterprise security teams are relying on personal WhatsApp and Signal accounts to facilitate critical IR remediation work, which combines the personal and professional communications of the user (see compliance risk above...).

Mode, in contrast, allows CSIRT teams to operate within a secure, controlled, and closed environment, which prioritizes post-quantum end-to-end encryption and isolated user identity. It's designed to mitigate ongoing attacks and ensure data integrity throughout your team communication and information sharing.

Something both cybersecurity leaders and extended IR stakeholders will appreciate when trust is eroded during an attack.

In conclusion

We harbor no animosity towards WhatsApp and Signal. They have popularized the use of end-to-end encrypted communication. In many respects, Signal has put privacy-first communication on the radar of many people for the first time.


Enterprise organizations face unique challenges during cyberattacks. Cybersecurity leaders must prioritize secure and efficient communication during incidents. They must ensure their organizations are ready to keep team communication online so their teams can effectively work through incidents.

The takeaway is clear: during cyber incidents, there's no room for error. WhatsApp and Signal simply don't cut it when the stakes are high. By choosing to implement a platform like Mode into your cybersecurity program, your team moves a step closer toward a more comprehensive and modern approach.