CeBIT: Voice Encryption Not Just for Government Agencies Anymore

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2015-03-19 Print this article Print
Voice Encryption

There's no word yet which carriers in the United States will offer the app-based secure voice, although Björn Rupp, CEO of GSMK, said it should be available in 2015. T-Mobile is providing the service for €20 to €50 per month, he said.

I had a series of conversations with the companies while at CeBIT, and I found that the demand for secure calling has gone far beyond the resource-heavy encryption systems of years past. Now, with the computing power and memory available on modern smartphones, software-only encryption becomes possible.

One topic that came to the fore during my conversations with executives of SecuSmart and GSMK is that their customers are far more aware than they once were of the need for security and the risks from intrusion.

The tapping of phone conversations of the British royal family by tabloids was cited as a primary factor during my conversations. Likewise, the recent revelations of personal conversations of celebrities and the leaking of their photos seems to have motivated people who might otherwise not think about acquiring highly secure mobile devices.

But the demand for stronger voice encryption is only going to grow. SecuSmart, now part of BlackBerry, has created a version of their micro-SD card-based encryption that was previously available only for BlackBerry 10 devices for Samsung smartphones, as well. As was the case with the BlackBerry version, the Samsung secure system protects the whole device including voice.

The Samsung protection also goes beyond just phones. SecuSmart was also showing a Galaxy Tab with the SecuSmart chip that encrypts the entire tablet. That one is available now and sells for approximately $2,500, which is about the same price as the other devices from this company.

It's a safe bet that other European vendors will be offering similar products for sale over the course of the next few months. There were several versions of voice encryption in the preannouncement stages being shown at CeBIT.

From the comments I heard from the companies, these products are being developed in direct response to revelations of spying by the U.S. National Security Agency and other government agencies. It's worth noting that they're all being offered for sale in the United States as well as in Europe.

One observer suggested following a presentation by Glen Greenwald, who published the Edward Snowden leaks, that by building security products in Europe any rules by the U.S. government that encryption must have a back door could be safely ignored. Whether or not that's true, it's pretty clear that if the U.S. government's stance on security has done nothing else, it's helping to build a strong data security industry—in Europe.


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