Encrypt Your Smartphone Communications for Free


RedPhone and TextSecure

I've written before about the promise of encrypted communications for defeating snoopy government officials. But the most promising product seemed to be Silent Circle, which is a bit spendy. Fortunately, somebody who actually knows what he's talking about has reviewed a few alternatives, and he gives another offering a pretty enthusiastic thumbs-up. Even better, it's free.

Writes Matthew Green at Gizmodo:

RedPhone and TextSecure are developed by Moxie Marlinspike's Open Whisper Systems. Note that OWS is actually Moxie's second company — the original Whisper Systems was purchased by Twitter a couple of years back — not for the software, mind you; just to get hold of Moxie for a while. 

RedPhone does a much of what SilentCircle does, though without the paid subscription and termination to POTS. In fact, I'm not quite sure if you can terminate it to POTS [regular phone numbers] (I'll update if I find out.)

Specifically, RedPhone encrypts phone calls between smartphones that both use the software, and TextSecure does the same for text messages. Green, who works at the Security and Privacy Applied Reasearch (SPAR) Lab at Johns Hopkins University, adds:

After reading Moxie's RedPhone code the first time, I literally discovered a line of drool running down my face. It's really nice.

RedPhone and TextSecure are open source software products of Open WhisperSystems, which means that those in the know can keep an eye on the guts of the software to make sure no errors creep up or, worse, that something nasty gets inserted. They're available, at least for now, only for smartphones running Android. If I had any storage space left on my bargain-basement phone, I'd give 'em a try.

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  1. WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE TRYING TO HIDE? Drug deals? Terrorism? Drug terrorism? Terror deals? This is why The Wire got cancelled.

    1. A surprise birthday party for the government! Now, shut up!

  2. This is for criminals.

    1. Clearly, the only reason you’d would want to encrypt your smartphone is so that you can call your nerd/redneck friend (nerdneck?) and tell him to start printing high-capacity magazines.

      1. nerdneck

        There has to be a better option than that.

        hill techie?

        Ok that isn’t any better…

        1. Teckerwood?


        2. Techneck is the term we country folk use for the technologically advanced amongst our people. But that’s OUR word and you’re not allowed to use it.

          1. I’m stealing it.

            1. As long as you’re one of us.

          2. We’re just trying to help you re-appropriate it.

            1. Are you “taking it back” a la Randall? If so, then I suppose it’s alright.

    2. 3 felonies a day.

      1. Only 3?


    3. And since we’re all criminals now, and potential terrorists, it’s for everyone.

      Sadly, the government pretty much claims everything it does is purely a secret, and yet, when the poor mundanes even try to remain free just a bit with much hassles from the damn government just on bare principal, even at a libertar blog, why… we’re all a terrorist or a criminal…

      Let me just say in my ignorance I don’t believe for a second any of that works – keeping the phonecall from the big fat big bro gov, but it is a shame that not everyone with a mobile hasn’t downloaded and loaded this stuff up just because.

      So it clearly indicates, we are all screwed. They will stomp away as they see fit, and when it’s far too late, the jerkoffs of our society will have already mad certain the mundanes submitted entirely.

      1. Let me just say in my ignorance I don’t believe for a second any of that works – keeping the phonecall from the big fat big bro gov

        While it’s true that there’s no such thing as uncrackable encryption, it makes it a hell of a lot more difficult to intercept if it’s encrypted.

        standard texts and voice calls are not encrypted and are easy to intercept. Hell, I could do it with commercially available radio gear and a decent computer. Hell, the feds can just plug into whatever cell tower you’re on and listen in without any special gear.

        Encrypted calls and texts COULD be intercepted and deciphered, but they’d have to have a good reason to devote that much in resources. I’ve actually been looking at a few of these types of services recently.

        1. Wouldn’t govt logic dictate that something encrypted is worth taking note of, and should be decrypted?

          1. Possible. It still takes a LOT of computing power to break that kind of encryption. It’s not like on NCIS where they guess a password and poof! they’ve unencrypted it. Several gov agencies are switching to Android and using this type of encryption for secure communications because it is so hard to crack.

            They might take notice that I’ve suddenly started encrypting my texts, but after spending lots of time and money to unencrypt grocery lists or a sweet messages from my wife, they probably won’t bother anymore unless they have a good reason.

            It would certainly help matters if more people used this type of service. If thousands upon thousands of people are all using encryption on their mobile devices, they will have to be VERY choosy as to who they intercept.

          2. Not if everyone starts encrypting everything.

            1. It’d be quite entertaining if Google made encrypted SMS the default.

              It wouldn’t be radically out of character with them making https opt out instead of opt in.

              1. I think that may be likely once they completely merge all the messages kinda like iMessage (only better).

  3. If I send an encrypted text to someone, does that mean we’ve formed a government?

    1. Yes it does, so expect a visit from Obama’s minions of power.

      1. What’s that buzzing sound coming from overhead?

        1. Not a drone. Because if it were a drone, you’d already be dead.

  4. I can’t find much documentation. Nothing about how they guarantee the end-to-end encryption. Is it built around PKI?

    1. It’s probably a government honeypot. You download it and the government has automatically tapped your phone.

      1. Two semi-serious comments:

        -it’s already so trivial for the government to monitor cell phone communications that I doubt they’d need to put that functionality in a piece of software.

        -the code is open and has been examined by outsiders, who should have seen signs of that if it’s there.

        -although I don’t know how you verify that the package you’re downloading and installing exactly matches the source code you saw…

  5. No iphone support? hah, can’t handle REAL tech. Guess I’ll have to wait until the Fisher-Price version gets all grown up.

  6. The LongPhone 5 just became so 2009 lol.

  7. One thing about smartphones: Both Google (Android) and Apple (iOS) have been caught collecting information about their users via smartphones. Phone companies have as well – for instance, spyware has been found on phones from major carriers that collected data about phone calls and/or contact lists.

    I’m a technology fan, but I have no smartphone. (Little good that probably does me, though, in that many people who call me are doing so from smartphones and are also utterly oblivious to privacy (or malware) concerns. Once they list my number in their address books, social network analysis undoes everything my smartphone abstinence was supposed to accomplish.)

    So….I don’t about this product, but my impression is that mobile devices running Android or iOS, obtained through a major telco provider, are probably very hard to secure with any confidence.

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