Photo: via Silent Circle
The first line to a recent story on Buzzfeed is enough to make anyone break out a tinfoil hat … or at the very least buy a new App designed by Navy SEALs.”The first rule,” Buzzfeed staffer Russell Brandom writes, “former Navy SEAL Mike Janke tells me, is that you have to assume the worst: ‘Everything you do and say — email, text, phone — is monitored on some level.'”
What Janke and colleague Vic Hyder came up with was an App called “Silent Circle,” which encrypts iPhone data to a military-grade level. Janke told Brandom that his inspiration for the App was his work in the field of covert operations; another motivator was both Janke and Hyder’s work as private security contractors for celebrities, a field which doesn’t just have physical threats, but digital threats (a la Scarlett Johansson not so surreptitious cell phone boob shots).
In light of continuing, unwarranted wiretapping and continuous high-level implications that the National Security Agency screens all (all, as in, every single one) domestic transmissions, the founders and designers of Silent Circle may end up on the bad side of the government, in front of Congress, or worse, subpoenaed in the case of companies like Google and Facebook.
Cofounder Phil Zimmermann, who released PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) tool in 1991, is no stranger to the bad side of government attention, and said two aspect of Silent Circle insulate the company from government ire.
First, technically speaking — even if Silent Circle was brought in front of Congress, or their records were subpoenaed, the structure of Silent Circle prevents it from disclosing any user information. Why? Because the App uses the iPhone CPU to encrypt the data. Any data that leaves the iPhone leaves as total, military grade gobbledy gook, until it reaches another subscriber, in which case it is unscrambled.
Ahhh, but what about the encryption key? A new one is created and erased for every transmission, making each transmission completely, and perpetually indecipherable.
Second, Silent Circle aligns itself with the right people — this App is for operators, for Marines and SEALs abroad, for troops or diplomats or dignitaries who want to call home from a “Hotel in Moscow.”
So if Congress does call on them, it’ll have to pose questions to Silent Circle’s designers, a couple Navy SEALs.
Certainly the App can be used by “cyberpunks” and activists, but it caters to the defence crowd.
Speaking about deployed service members, Hyder tells Brandom, “he can call home and say, hey, I’m going to be home tomorrow. And he can tell his wife, right into her ear, and know nobody else is listening.”
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