How to secure mobile comm? Cut out the trusted third party.
The new secure communications service offered by Silent Circle intends to solve the BYOD security challenge by harnessing the computing power of smart phones for crypto key management, cutting the middle man out of the equation.
“We’ve pushed the key management out to the endpoints,” said company CTO Jon Callas. “We never have the key.”
For a $20 monthly subscription users can communicate securely with each other by downloading a suite of apps for peer-to-peer encryption. Calls, texts and video are routed through the Silent Circle network, but keys are generated on the mobile devices when a call is initiated and are not held on a central server. All security information is deleted from the device when the call ends.
Much has been made of the fact that this model could make it impossible for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to listen in to calls or look at data, images and video being exchanged between secured phones. But company executives say that instead of pushback, government has been an early adopter of the service, particularly U.S. military and intelligence agencies.
“This is not 1991,” said Philip Zimmermann, the company’s president and creator of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), the widely used e-mail encryption software.
Zimmermann is a veteran of the crypto wars of the 1990s, when the National Security Agency threatened the emergence of strong cryptography being developed commercially. “Times have changed,” he said. “Today you’re in trouble if you don’t use strong crypto.”