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Cell Phone Call Encryption

1/2/2014 - Author: Felicia

Red Phone is a new app for Android operating systems invented by Open Whisper Systems. The security validation process is rock solid, call quality acceptable, and you can finally encrypt your phone calls for free. You can find it in the Play store. I'm going to describe a few phone call encryption options here and then get into more details on Red Phone.


For years, I have been recommending PhoneCrypt, but at the >$500 per phone cost only executive clients used the app. PhoneCrypt has not yet been replaced by Cryptophone and I don't expect that to happen anytime soon. PhoneCrypt is still what you want if you have an iPhone. Red Phone is only available for Android. I'm not going to rehash the technical details of each product here because you really should visit the vendors' websites for that information. Suffice to say that I'm very impressed with the level of security afforded by all three applications.

One last point on SecurStar. They make some of the best hard drive encryption technology available on the market. They make three different DriveCrypt products. So if you are looking for disk encryption as well as call encryption, visit their website.

Cryptophone appears to be the only fully comprehensive option on the market. They control the hardware and software. Due to the idiocy of the cell phone provider-centric design of cellular networks in the U.S., I don't see Cryptophone being very viable for the U.S. market anytime soon. In Europe and elsewhere, you can simply purchase a SIM card from your cellular plan provider, and then put it into any compatible unlocked phone. Most phones in Europe and elsehwere are unlocked. In the U.S., we are stuck with buying phones from the cellular service provider. This market condition seems to be purely a condition associated with the cellular network providers' desires to lobby Congress and pass laws favorable to their profit margin. There is no technical reason for this market condition.

If you are looking for a baseband firewall and a hardened operating system, you really should check out Cryptophone. Source code is available so you can verify there is no backdoor into the phone.

Realize there are similarities between all three phone call encryption applications. All three use excellent encryption technologies. All three avoid the voice channel of the phone entirely. The general way that they work is by placing an app-to-app call over a data channel that is fully encrypted. As a result, encrypted phone calls are going to consume your data plan unless your phone is connected to non-cellular wireless at the time. You will experience latency, but the call quality is acceptable. If you have ever used Voice Call technologies like Skype, then you will understand what kind of latency I'm referring to. And obviously, you can only make an app-to-app phone call to another party that has the same app.

Because it uses the data channel and you typically have a limited data plan with your phone, I suggest using your call encryption utility only for phone calls you don't want recorded.

Once you install Red Phone, you will need to validate that you actually have the phone number that is on that device. The validation process starts with a SMS attempt and will failback to voice call if the SMS fails. Given the fact that it is extremely easy to hack phones via SMS, I suggest you have SMS disabled at the provider level. You can find other articles on this site under the Cell Phone category that go into great detail about cell phone hacking via SMS. If you have SMS disabled, it may initially look like the validation is going to fail, but it will switch to voice call later.

So if you want to actually have some phone call privacy, then I suggest you check out Red Phone or these other apps.

3/7/2014 - Hot Update

Blackphone is on the market.

Check out the product website for the full features, but as of now, this promises to be our response to the NSA spy devices we are currently paying for. Blackphone is slated to have PrivatOS, which is an open code, customized version of Android. I sincerely hope they eliminate the Google spy mechanism that is present on all other Android phones.

Blackphone is also slated to tie into SpiderOak. I have been saying for some time that SpiderOak is incredible, and this just confirms it. For people that want to make use of Silent Circle, it looks like there will be integration into this phone with those services.

Of particular interest is the advanced firewall and wireless management capabilities on the phone. All I can say is preorder your device now.

3/12/2014 - FreedomPop

Another privacy phone has hit the market space.