November 19, 2003 10:06 AM PST

Encrypted cell phone foils eavesdroppers

A Berlin company has developed a cell phone designed to be impenetrable to eavesdroppers.

CryptoPhone, a unit of privately held GSMK, said a European model of its encrypted GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phone is available immediately for $2,270 (1,900 euros), and a U.S. configuration will ship by the end of the year. Two CryptoPhones are necessary to have a secure conversation.

 "It's the only option people currently have to get trustworthy mobile encryption," Frank Rieger, GSM technical director at CryptoPhone, said in an interview Tuesday.

Other companies have developed mobile devices that use encryption, including Siemens' TopSec GSM phone and Motorola's CipherTAC module for its flip phones.

But CryptoPhone is unique in that its phone is cheaper, and the complete source code to its encryption software is available, allowing independent auditors to check for accidental bugs and intentional backdoors. For encryption, CryptoPhone uses AES256 and Twofish, two algorithms considered to be among the strongest available.

Interception of GSM calls is illegal in most, if not all, nations, but equipment to sniff and decode phone calls is readily available. GSM spy gear claims to "auto detect," decode and record conversations and "target specific numbers or randomly screen GSM mobile communication." The GSM standard itself includes a limited form of encryption, but Israeli researchers recently discovered a basic flaw in it.

"This is something that is no longer theoretical," Rieger said. "This is something that you can expect every private investigator to have in his toolset."

CryptoPhone's Web site also mentions possible eavesdropping by the National Security Agency and warns that "law-enforcement agencies have in the last years acquired an ever-rising set of capabilities, with ever-shrinking restrictions on their use." In 1998, the Los Angeles Police Department was discovered to have illegally wiretapped hundreds of telephones in violation of the law.

To make a CryptoPhone, the company buys an off-the-shelf phone from a Taiwan manufacturer (sold in the United States as an AT&T SX56) and loads its encryption code into it. The company also plans to release free encryption software for Windows computers on Nov. 23 that will interoperate with its GSM units.

6 comments

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Can it stop reverse cell phone lookups and bluetooth spying. http://www.usfreeads.com/2234704-cls.html
Posted by smke9 (7 comments )
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when will cnet add gps blockers to it's site.i've been looking for a while to see if you had add this to your fleet.in a few words, gps blockers supposedly knock's out tracking devices place on your automobile by whoever or whatever party is seeking to track your every move.figure you guys are up there in the techfield and would be able to give some good feedback in this area.
Posted by Bawolfe (2 comments )
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when will cnet add gps blockers to it's site.i've been looking for a while to see if you had add this to your fleet.in a few words, gps blockers supposedly knock's out tracking devices place on your automobile by whoever or whatever party is seeking to track your every move.figure you guys are up there in the techfield and would be able to give some good feedback in this area.
Posted by Bawolfe (2 comments )
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Bawolfe - because they don't want those carjackers in SA to get a hold of them and defeat the GPS trackers.
smke9 - reverse cell phone lookups is based on your phone network forwarding the information. You need to do a call block *67 or have your phone company block your number. Bluetooth would not be protected since it is unencrypted voice travelling to the bluetooth device. Unless they came out with an encrypted bluetooth device it would be clear.
Posted by flea333 (1 comment )
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sorry i have a iphone and i'm using a program for the encrypted call. i think is the better way! the name of the program is Kryptophone (with the K).it works well and everywhere with a wifi or 3g connection.
if you wanna check: en.kryptotel.net/home.html
Posted by godzillavsspiderman (1 comment )
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A hardware key generator micro SD card can encrypted your voice.
It is secure from wiretapping.
Posted by ciutaiwan (1 comment )
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