Boris Johnson’s messages have put WhatsApp in the spotlight in the U.K. Challenger NetSfere says it wants to solve the “WhatsApp dilemma.”

Christine Horton, Contributing Editor

July 19, 2023

4 Min Read
NetSfere challenges

Enterprise mobile messaging service NetSfere challenges the use of WhatsApp by organizations and public sector officials, which is currently under scrutiny in the UK. It follows former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claiming he can’t hand over his WhatsApp messages to the ongoing COVID inquiry, despite a High Court order. The reason? They are stuck on his phone and he can’t retrieve them, he says.

That should never be the case, argues the CEO of NetSfere, the secure, enterprise messaging rival to WhatsApp.

NetSfere came together through the acquisition of the messaging assets of Motorola, Alcatel Lucent and Nokia. Its CEO, Anurag Lal, said the enterprise version of NetSfere was built to solve what he refers to as “the WhatsApp dilemma.”


NetSfere’s Anurag Lal

This is where the consumer messaging app is widely deployed across organisations, a situation Lal described as “scary.”

“It’s a dirty little secret that exists. It exists in every company,” he said.

‘Vague’ Security and Data Mining

“[WhatsApp] was never built for the enterprise,” said Lal. “It was built for the consumer. It’s a free platform that allowed you to send free SMS [when] SMS was expensive as hell. It was not built with the enterprise in mind. It didn’t have security built in. It didn’t have feature functionality, built-in control, the ability to archive messages – so the Prime Minister’s messages could be made available and he wouldn’t have to look for them.”

Lal said WhatsApp has looked to install “some level of security after the fact.” However, WhatsApp has been “vague with regards to how they do end-to-end encryption.”

This, he said is because “at the end of the day, they are in the business of mining your data. That’s how they monetize the service. They state that very clearly in the app store.”

Both Google and Apple now make applications reveal what data they mine and collect in their app stories. With WhatsApp and other messaging platforms, this includes purchases, location, contacts, user IDs, diagnostics, financial history and contacts. With NetSfere, no data is collected – which the firm views as a key selling point.

The CEO also said NetSfere was built with security and end-to-end encryption in mind.

“We picked a very strong 256-bit encryption algorithm, the elliptical Key Exchange, which is designed to give the keys to your data to you as the owner of the enterprise. So even I don’t have the keys to your data. I see gibberish. We felt that was the right way to architect it. We had no right to own the keys to your data.”

Another NetSfere pillar is control. “We felt that this was going to be an IT product, it had to be entirely controlled. And then we built productivity capabilities like high definition, video and audio and being encrypted in real time. And then we built compliance features that allow you to archive information.

“So, Boris’ messages would have been archived, they would have been on a five year data retention policy, because it’s government data. And the [Covid inquiry] would have been able, based on a [summons], extract that information.”

(To that point, Lal said Johnson “either was naïve or chose to be careless in the platform that he was using.”)

Expansion in Europe

With the market maturing, Lal said the U.S. company is looking to expand in Europe. As such, it is looking for channel partners in the region.

“People have become aware of the problem. They now know they have to deploy an enterprise-grade product to solve that problem, while giving their employees the feature functionality that they like,” he said.

Lal said NetSfere is looking to sign up larger system integrators and partners with a broad view of the enterprise. However, he said the firm was being deliberate in its partner choices.

“Until recently, we were self-serving, or you could go online and deploy yourself. Now we’re going to take it to the next level and put partners on the ground here. So then their relationships can have a multiplier effect.”

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Christine Horton or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About the Author(s)

Christine Horton

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Christine Horton writes about all kinds of technology from a business perspective. Specializing in the IT sales channel, she is a former editor and now regular contributor to leading channel and business publications. She has a particular focus on EMEA for Channel Futures.

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