The PJ Tatler

The Pentagon Gets 'NSA Proof' Phones

Apparently the Defense Department doesn’t care for the government panopticon and has rolled out some “supersecret smartphones” for work use.

The stealth phone is made by the company Silent Circle, founded by a former Navy Seal and an inventor of PGP encryption, Mike Janke and Phil Zimmerman.  The company was originally started as a California corporation but Silent Circle scooted out of the country once the NSA started demanding back-door access from communication companies offering encrypted technology along with their customers’ user logs.

As part of limited trials, U.S. military personnel are using the device, encrypted with secret code down to its hardware, to communicate “for both unclassified and classified” work, Silent Circle chairman Mike Janke told Nextgov.

The Silent Circle smartphone was released in 2014 and the Pentagon signed on despite the fact that the phone is now headquartered and manufactured in Switzerland.

The “wild thing about it is, we’re a Swiss firm,” Janke said Monday. “Our phones aren’t produced in the U.S., but because of the fact that [DOD] can test our phone in a lab — they can look at the code that’s open source — they’ve been testing it for a year now and using it.”

One of the more useful features of the phone is the differentiated “spaces” where a user can have a personal space, with typical personal information and apps, and also a work “space” that is encrypted.

The feds have “encouraged” communication providers to install backdoors into their technology in case the authorities need to monitor citizens’ private business. (The government regulates the telecoms so it’s not really as “volunteer” as it sounds.) “The concern, they say, is that bad actors, including terrorists and pedophiles, are using encryption tools to mask their identities, whereabouts and illegal operations,” writes Nextgov.

“We believe that encrypted and secure communications and devices are a given right whether you are working for DOD or you’re working for a human rights group in Botswana,” Janke said. “We speak out about governments of the world vacuuming up, abusing the privacy rights of their citizens, but we produce hardware and software that works for governments as well as human rights activists equally.”

It’s not just the DOD that wants encrypted cell phones. Silent Circle has many Fortune 500 clients and counts 14 governments around the world as customers.

Visit the Silent Circle website here.