According to the now infamous leaks of Edward Snowden, the government has created an institution of overreaching. He argues that the NSA has created a system where ordinary communications sent by citizens every day are intercepted by entities like the NSA and subject to scrutiny. This has sent shockwaves through the world of IT, where wild accusations have people concerned that their everyday interactions with friends and family will be recorded and scrutinized in real time.
The position of the Obama administration is one of cautious acceptance. According to some officials, there may be an opening for privacy advocates to sell true privacy, technology that is exempt from government prying and from individual eyes as well.
Does such technology exist?
Dr. Björn Rupp and his company are willing to try and make it happen. The company in question is GSMK Cryptophone and they are building cell phones that are designed to be secure. They run a proprietary home brew version of Android, that is an operating system you can’t get anywehere else, and the phone will allow for end-to-end secure phone calls. To make the phone just that much more desirable, the company even claims their phones will have much of the functionality that consumer phones already sacrifice privacy for.
Of course, there is some magic involved. Both parties in communication will need the cryptophone, so the technology will function something like a futuristic walkie-talkie, but it’s an idea that more companies are starting to flirt with.
For his part, Rupp claims that the phone is secure in every way imaginable. No viruses here, and storage is safe too. Ditto for voice and data encryption. You can’t duplicate the SIM cards for the phones and the operating system supports mobile protection for companies.
Rupp says that his phones safeguard against attacks that target hardware rather than software. You could theoretically download the operating system Rupp uses and program it to a phone. However, a skilled hacker would realize the high level encryption and look for other means of entry.
So, who is in the market for this kind of technology?
Rupp says corporations have a hand in it: “The focus has been on strategic surveillance by government agencies. But I’m actually surprised that no one’s really stressing how much tactical espionage is going on as well.”
Is industrial espionage paving the way to a more secure cell phone?
Crowdfunded projects like the Quasar IV hope to respond to the rising demand. While the Quasar did not meet its ambitious goal of $3.2 million to cover manufacturing and incorporation costs, production has already begun on this brand new and secure smartphone.
The Quasar hopes that it can find a market foothold with individuals looking to hide data from entities like the NSA. It too uses a customized operating system to provide an “off the grid” experience for its elite clientele.
The funding behind the Quasar may be obscured, and the vision may fade as quickly as it came to be, but there is definitely an increased rise in demand for new solutions to security. As American IT companies brace for backlash from their partners around the world wondering if their data is safe, the calls to put out the fires might be made from encrypted phones.