Encrypted mobile phones, for safe calls in the face of the Government

August 5, 2010 Technology No Commenti

As we have seen in some recent posts, when they are not busy throwing accusations (or even missiles) at each other, the administrations of the Western and Eastern hemispheres are best friends when it comes to keeping their citizens’ freedom of expression and communication under control.

If on one hand the US Government sets up secret centers in charge of monitoring online activities of millions of American users under the pretext of looking for a potential threat to national security (as if terrorists are so naive as to leave electronic tracks…), on the other side, Asian and Middle Eastern countries, with the same excuse, wage a war on mobile phone calls placed with the BlackBerry phones and technology, which have just one imperfection: they use an encoding individually controlled by each user, therefore the network administrators are not in possession of such a key, and would not be able to provide conversation data to any court that should request it.

To avoid running the risk of having some censor or governmental officer waking up one day and deciding to listen to everyone’s calls, or in any case to prevent our conversations from being bugged or listened to, be it with clean or malicious intentions, fortunately there is a solution, and it is not affected by the telecommunication system or network one uses.

In fact, by using an encrypted mobile phone, you can add one further layer of security on top of the (vulnerable) one provided by proprietary encoding used by the GSM operator of your choice.

To encrypt any communication from your mobile phone, all you have to do is install a special software on your handset, and it will make your calls impossible to listen to. In fact, even in case the conversation between two phones equipped with the Safe & Talk encryption software is intercepted, a hidden listener would only be able to hear a white noise instead of two voices.

In short, once the encryption software is installed, all you have to do is enter a secret key and call freely. If your counterpart uses the same software and secret key, your calls are safe.

All calls placed with a mobile phone equipped with this protection are encrypted with a 256-bit key, which makes them virtually attack-proof. Furthermore, it is also possible to encrypt SMS messages, which would therefore be illegible for anyone who should ever intercept them.

Along with the Safe & Talk software, there are several other ways to keep your phone calls safe, for example by using an interception-free untraceable phone, which protects itself against malicious attempts by dynamically changing its IMEI number, the number that uniquely identifies each mobile phone equipment.

For more information on encrypted mobile phones and on several methods to make sure that your private phone calls stay private, we suggest that you visit the Endoacustica website.

Your GPS navigator? In your glasses

August 5, 2010 Technology No Commenti

During the recent Wireless Japan expo, the Tokyo UEC (University of Electro-Communications) has presented the prototype of a wearable personal navigation system, which can easily be worn as it is contained inside a pair of special glasses.

In fact, we are not talking about a normal pair of glasses, but rather a microscopic GPS navigator which only sports the shape of a pair of glasses. Inside the frame there are LEDs, mounted following a circular pattern, which would turn on according to movements of the wearer’s head.

When the head moves, in fact, a LED positioned in the direction of the final destination would light, therefore showing the glasses’ wearer the direction of the road to take to reach their home, their workplace, the hotel of their holidays and so on.

The frame contains, along with LEDs and direction sensor, also a GPS antenna, a battery to power the whole system and a miniature computer. All that the user has to do is enter the final destination, and when the GPS antenna detects the position of its current location and that of the destination, direction sensors will guide him to reach it along the right way, in the fastest possible time.

Developed by UEC’s Nakajima Laboratory, the GPS navigator in a pair of glasses has been put to the test during a test run on pedestrians in the Tokyo traffic, and the test was successfully passed.
The advantage of this navigation system, if compared for example to mobile phones equipped with GPS, lies in the fact that while with the latter one always has to keep an eye on the handset to follow the road, thus increasing the risk of small accidents, with these glasses they would just have to follow the direction shown by the LED inside the frame, without losing touch with dangers of the road and keeping eyes fixed on the direction to take.

Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to put a ban on BlackBerry

August 5, 2010 Technology No Commenti

As we have repeatedly seen lately, often governments love to stick their noses in their citizens’ private lives and businesses, with the all-round pretext of “national security reasons”, such as, for example, screening of phone calls in the quest for a possible terrorist threat. By doing this, they are actually limiting individual liberties, from freedom of expression to freedom of communication.

In this exact direction goes the latest decision made by Saudi Arabia to ban usage of BlackBerry cellphones on its territory. Just like the United Arab Emirates had done a few days ago, imposing a deadline by the middle of October, the Saudi kingdom has ordered connections to be shut down as of tomorrow, August 6.

According to official sources, the ban is due to the fact that the protocol used by these smartphones does not comply with standard in terms of security. In fact, Rim, which produces the BlackBerry technology, is the only one that can directly control its communication network, unlike other mobile phone manufacturers.

BlackBerry users, over a million in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are afraid that, in order to control their communications, the government will force them to use other mobile phones. Authorities, on the contrary, claim that the protocol would infringe some not specified rules; the governments have requested Rim to make communication data available, but they received a negative reply, because encoding of BlackBerry conversations is made by using a unique encryption key, generated not by the mobile phone operator, but rather by each individual user.

Therefore, Rim would not be able to make its conversations available to any government that should request it. Along with Gulf countries, the anti-BlackBerry league has recently seen the addition of India and Indonesia, although the Indonesian government has stated that they are not against BlackBerry networks, but they just request that data handling be done locally.

Indeed, the governments which placed a ban on encrypted phone calls are fighting terrorist threats, either because cells of groups such as Al Qaeda are hiding in their countries or using them as logistic or financial bases, or because (for example in India) there is a constant threat by extremists of both sides in the disputed regions at the border with Pakistan.

In any case, BlackBerry users and not only are sure that there is much more behind this, and that it has to do not only with prevention of terrorist activities and threats, but most of all with controlling individual freedom of expression, a kind of control that, in theocratic monarchies of the Gulf region, has always been very strict.

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