The Threat of Silence
Meet the groundbreaking new encryption app set to revolutionize privacy and freak out the feds.
By Ryan Gallagher Feb. 4, 2013 Slate Magazine
For the past few months, some of the world's leading cryptographers have been keeping a closely guarded secret about a pioneering new invention. Today, they've decided it's time to tell all.
Back in October, the startup tech firm Silent Circle ruffled governments' feathers with a "surveillance-proof" smartphone app to allow people to make secure phone calls and send texts easily. Now, the company is pushing things even further-with a groundbreaking encrypted data transfer app that will enable people to send files securely from a smartphone or tablet at the touch of a button. (For now, it's just being released for iPhones and iPads, though Android versions should come soon.) That means photographs, videos, spreadsheets, you name it-sent scrambled from one person to another in a matter of seconds.
"This has never been done before," boasts Mike Janke, Silent Circle's CEO. "It's going to revolutionize the ease of privacy and security."
True, he's a businessman with a product to sell-but I think he is right.
The technology uses a sophisticated peer-to-peer encryption technique that allows users to send encrypted files of up to 60 megabytes through a "Silent Text" app. The sender of the file can set it on a timer so that it will automatically "burn"-deleting it from both devices after a set period of, say, seven minutes. Until now, sending encrypted documents has been frustratingly difficult for anyone who isn't a sophisticated technology user, requiring knowledge of how to use and install various kinds of specialist software. What Silent Circle has done is to remove these hurdles, essentially democratizing encryption. It's a game-changer that will almost certainly make life easier and safer for journalists, dissidents, diplomats, and companies trying to evade state surveillance or corporate espionage. Governments pushing for more snooping powers, however, will not be pleased.
...***** Moderator's Note *****
Mike Janke can say "This has never been done before", but that is incorrect. In the "PC" space, I watched Phil Zimmerman demonstrate a VoIP phone call, which was secured via PGP, back in the 90's: the equipment wasn't as small, but it /was/ being done.
Of course, Mr. Janke /is/ a businessman with a product to sell, but let's keep in mind that voice scrambling devices are nothing new: for example, soldiers in Vietnam used KY-28 encryption equipment to make voice communications secure, and that was before microprocessors or even integrated circuits were in use. As far back as World War II, leaders like Roosevelt and Churchil enjoyed digitally-secured radio channels.
The question isn't "Is this new?", but rather "Is this robust encryption, without any backdoors?"
Bill Horne Moderator