Phone hacking problems? Defense, intel agencies have an app for that

A download is letting soldiers and secret agents abroad make calls on popular smartphones and skirt eavesdropping adversaries.

Several military and intelligence agencies are downloading an anti-hacking app to thwart call interceptions on smartphones, according to providers of the tool.

The software application, Cellcrypt Mobile, runs on commercial mobile devices, including Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and Nokia models. Unlike the hacks associated with Rupert Murdoch's news empire, the concern here is the breach of live audio transmissions, not stored voice mails.

“Most phones just don’t have voice security built in -- period,” said Kathleen Peters, Cellcrypt general manager for North America. One exception is the $3,150 BlackBerry-like Secure Mobile Environment Portable Electronic Device, or SMEPED, that is certified for Top Secret communications.

The somewhat less expensive $1,600 retail price Cellcrypt tool protects sensitive, unclassified international calls from U.S. troops serving two military branches, according to the company, which could not disclose the units for national security reasons. Peters said that Cellcrypt has made “small initial commercial sales to various military organizations” for “folks who are on special operations.”

Cellphone voice encryption typically requires inserting special hardware, but the app does not. “Irrespective of whether the phone has hardware to encrypt or not, you don’t have to worry, because encryption will be delivered through the app,” Peters said of her company’s technology.

U.S. intelligence agencies have opted to use an accessory that sits beside their landline phone systems, enabling operatives on cellphones to call into the office for voice mail or to speak with a supervisor, she said.

Cellcrypt and Verizon on April 30 announced a service coming this fall that will make it easier for federal agencies to obtain the app through their contracts with the telecommunications giant. The program already is available through government contractor Winvale.

Call security is critical for overseas military because mundane conversations overheard by foreign intelligence officers can be analyzed to discern U.S. strategies, company officials said.

Chatting about unusual weather in Afghanistan with comrades or even family members can convey the location of a regiment. “It may be a soldier phoning home and telling their loved ones, ‘I’ll be out for three weeks, so don’t worry about me.’ There could be calls about supplies coming in and out, which in a vacuum, in and of [themselves are] innocuous” but revealing in conjunction with other contextual information, Peters said.

“There are instructions not to discuss certain details on the phone, but what we’re told is that people do anyway,” she added.

Further complicating call security is the “bring your own device” push. For convenience and cost-efficiency, government and corporate offices are trying to partition employee-owned smartphones in a way that grants system administrators control over work data, while allowing employees’ personal usage to remain private. The Cellcrypt app accomplishes that maneuver by letting users turn the encryption on and off. The user must click on the app before dialing -- and the recipient must have the app installed on his or her phone too.

Users can tell they are on a secure call by the closed padlock icon that shows up on their screens. “Our app doesn’t take over your phone,” Peters said. “It doesn’t make all your messages or calls secure. It will have a unique graphical user interface. You will know whether you’re on a secure call or not.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.