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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.

Eavesdropping

December 15, 2009 Biotechnology No Commenti

Covert

Those who do not live in Italy and do not follow Italian affairs may not be completely familiar with details of the several bills that the Berlusconi government is presenting to the Parliament in order to have them approved. The talk might go on for days concerning whether they are politically legitimate or not, but sure enough some of them are controversial, to say the least, and have been raising more than one eyebrow.

For example, the one that has caused the widest outrage, along with the Alfano Law, which was supposed to protect the holders of the four highest offices in Italy (and incidentally, the prime Minister himself) from any trial, and that has been rejected by the Supreme Court, was the possible bill about telephone and environmental eavesdropping within the framework of criminal investigation.

Had this bill passed, the district attorneys would have seen their hands almost tied during the investigation phase of the trial, as they would have been able to authorize planting covert bugs only when serious clues are present, and not in case of presence of a limited number of clues as the current law says. This is not valid for organized crime and terrorism, and for any crime which could be punished with sentences longer than 5 years; for these crimes, the current legislation would still be applicable.

Another aspect that would be dramatically limited is the duration of the interception operation, which is limited to a maximum of two months (that is, one month plus two additional 15-day terms) which undoubtedly is too short a time to gather substantial and incontrovertible evidence to prove a defendant’s possible guilt (or his innocence), especially if financial misgivings are involved; incidentally, financial crimes are those that have put Berlusconi in hot water.

But what undoubtedly would make the current Italian Prime Minister a happy man is the part of this bill which forbids publication of any documentation concerning preliminary investigations, or even the ban on informing the public opinion on any warrant received by a defendant. Considering the limitations inflicted to investigations, there would not be much time to issue one, and should a judge be able to do it, it would no longer be possible to report this simple fact on a magazine or newspaper, thus keeping the general public unaware of any crime committed by their representatives.

Should a journalist publish such acts, or any excerpts from eavesdropped conversations, he could be fined or even jailed, while if a judge makes any comment on ongoing investigations or proceedings, he could even be stripped of his office. In short, not only investigations would be thwarted, but the public’s right to be informed (and to make their choice at the polling station based on this information) would suffer a severe blow.

Telephone interception, in the past, has helped catch dangerous criminals, as well as preventing financial crime, with an immediate benefit not only for public security, but, notably, for the State’s finances.

Therefore, it is just fair to ask ourselves who would really be benefiting from such a bill being passed, if not those with something to hide from the law, or those who fear that the content of their eavesdropped conversations would harm them if made public.

And among these people, as you can easily learn from newspapers worldwide, the most notable one is, incidentally, the person who is governing Italy since years.

How many eavesdropped conversations can fit into a yottabyte?

November 6, 2009 Technology No Commenti

Data Centre

In security-related environment, the word is that the US National Security Agency is about to open a new center for processing and storage of data, which can store up to several yottabytes of information.
For those among you (and your blogger is actually in the same condition) who happen not to know what a yottabyte is, this apparently weird measurement unit is the equivalent of something like a million billion gigabytes.

We are talking about monster-sized storage facilities, capable of hosting the rough equivalent of the world’s entire data capacity, multiplied by a few thousand times. This huge amount of available data storage space can be used only in one way, considering the NSA’s activities: storage of information, conversations, telephone eavesdropping, radio transmissions and so on.

What is still unclear is the means of storage that will be used to file this amount of data, what is sure that it would be too expensive, complicated and space-consuming to interconnect millions of hard drives with each other. It is also sure that nowadays, our telephone conversations are no longer to be considered 100% private, and that the potential risk of prying ears listening to what we say is always around the corner.

Therefore, along with following the simple advice of not touching sensitive subjects while on the phone, it is certainly advisable to provide yourselves with a counter surveillance anti interception system which would allow us to make our conversations more difficult to intercept, or useless for any unauthorized listener.

Unless your name is Bin Laden, if you are leading an ordinary life your private or business conversations should not be of any interest for NSA, but at least, we know that the feeling that someone may be listening is undoubtedly not a pleasant one, and feeling reassured against this threat is certainly priceless.

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