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Security Communications Encryption

Secure Communication Comes To Android 150

Posted by kdawson
from the speak-freely-now dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Forbes is reporting that Moxie Marlinspike and Stuart Anderson's startup, Whisper Systems, has released a public beta of two Android applications that provide encrypted call and SMS capabilities for your Android phone. In the wake of recent GSM attacks, it'll be interesting to see if smartphones end up providing a platform that fundamentally changes the security we can expect from mobile communication."
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Secure Communication Comes To Android

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  • Less useful (Score:4, Informative)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @06:56PM (#32342716)
    While interesting, these apps aren't that useful because the other caller would have to be using the same software for it to work which limits it to just a few people using Android with these apps.
  • Re:Sure it will (Score:3, Informative)

    by DrSkwid (118965) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @07:16PM (#32342898) Homepage Journal

    lol, I thought I was about to prove you wrong because I had STARTTLS enabled on our incoming mail server and was surprised to find remote MTAs using it as I'd turned it on to protect our users' outgoing mail authentication.

    $ telnet 25
    Connected to
    Escape character is '^]'.
    220 Sending unsolicited commercial or bulk e-mail to Microsoft's computer network is prohibited. Other restrictions are found at []. Violations will result in use of equipment located in California and other states. Tue, 25 May 2010 16:00:36 -0700
    helo fuckface
    250 ( Hello []
    554 Unable to initialize security subsystem

    $ telnet 25
    Connected to
    Escape character is '^]'.
    220 ESMTP s4si17050707wbc.88
    helo fuzznuts
    250 at your service
    502 5.5.1 Unrecognized command. s4si17050707wbc.88

    At least someone is security concious, this is Fastmail's smtp - now owned by Opera

    % telnet 25
    Connected to
    Escape character is '^]'.
    220 ESMTP . No UCE permitted.
    helo opera
    220 2.0.0 Ready to start TLS

  • by e9th (652576) <`moc.xedoput' `ta' `ht9e'> on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @07:23PM (#32342950)
    As far as I know, the Justice Department's position hasn't changed much since this [] 1998 policy FAQ.

    Anyone have any later statements from them?
  • Re:Sure it will (Score:4, Informative)

    by icebraining (1313345) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @07:44PM (#32343160) Homepage

    TLS encryption only protects from the client to the server, you have no guarantees about the security of the server-to-server connection nor of the pop/imap server to receiving client. Only message encryption with an OpenPGP implementation or similar can offer that.

    But Gmail may not support STARTTLS, but it supports IMAPS, and uses HTTPS by default in the webmail.

  • by Bugamn (1769722) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @08:03PM (#32343324) Journal
    I use Vogon poetry. They may even eavesdrop, but they will soon wish they hadn't.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @08:24PM (#32343504) Journal

    What I'm more curious about is why there hasn't been (AFAIK) an app that uses an asymmetric public-key encryption method. The solution from TFA takes the combination of the users' keys to generate a password, ...

    Public key encryption is crunch intensive - even in the good direction. (It's "effectively impossible" in the "bad" direction, which is the whole point.) Too crunch intensive to be practical when encrypting streams, even with current fast processors.

    So it's usually used to generate and exchange a "session key" (and perhaps periodically replace it with a new one) for a symmetric cypher that takes less crunch and is "secure enough" if the amount of material it encrypts is limited.

  • Re:Sure it will (Score:4, Informative)

    by rthille (8526) <{gro.tagnar} {ta} {todhsals-bew}> on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @08:32PM (#32343560) Homepage Journal

    Try a valid ehlo, rather than a bogus 'helo fuckface'. Some mail servers won't bother to honor starttls unless they are talking to a conforming server.

  • by penguinchris (1020961) <> on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @08:33PM (#32343572) Homepage

    Just a small comment, I don't think you can group Thailand with Iran when it comes to restricting/monitoring communications. They do block websites (trivial to get around if you want to) but they don't block dissent against the government in any way, and I'm guessing they monitor it less than the NSA monitors US citizens.

    And that's beside the fact that you can get pre-paid mobile phones for the equivalent of $10 in cash with very cheap add-on minutes (also pay for those in cash) which for all practical purposes are untraceable, because if you're paranoid you can switch them around or whatever.

    I'm defending Thailand because the foreign press has distorted what happened there recently quite a bit. It's nothing like Iran. People are free to protest the government, despite what it may seem after the violence recently in Bangkok.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @08:44PM (#32343660)

    You said:

    Except the fact that the protocol itself is documented this is not materially different from skype which is also encrypted and has governments apparently scrambling to crack.
    A truly revolutionary app would encrypt the phone's mobile call audio.

    TFA says:

    Whisper Systems' apps aren't the first to bring encrypted VoIP to smartphones. But apps like Skype and Vonage don't publish their source code, leaving the rigor of their security largely a matter of speculation. Marlinspike argues that because those apps interface with the traditional telephone network, they may also be subject to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, (CALEA) which requires companies to build backdoors into their technologies for law enforcement wiretaps.

  • Re:Sure it will (Score:4, Informative)

    by sznupi (719324) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @10:12PM (#32344182) Homepage

    Plus we can look at the impact done by availability of Zfone/ZRTP (this new encrypted VoIP standard from Phil Zimmermann) for Symbian smartphones (half of all smartphones)

    Oh, nobody was aware of its availability? Exactly...

  • by cool_arrow (881921) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @10:25PM (#32344250)
    If I recall correctly zrtp generates ephemeral "one time use" keys via Diffie Hellman key exchange. After the session, the keys are discarded. Also asymmetric encryption is used all the time with PGP/openGPG. I generate a key and encrypt a message to you using relatively speedy symmetric encryption, and then encrypt that key asymmetrically with your public key. I send you the bundled up pgp package. You decrypt the symmetric key with your private key and then decrypt my message. Of course the pgp protocol takes care of the details. At least that's how I think it works anyway.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @10:29PM (#32344266)

    For the same reason you don't see apps that record calls (google voice does somewhat, but is not doing so in the phone) you'll never see an app which encrypts the phone call. It's just not possible to route the audio through the processor of these phones. Therefore it truly _would_ revolutionary --since it's impossible by design.

  • Re:Sure it will (Score:3, Informative)

    by phantomcircuit (938963) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @11:04PM (#32344514) Homepage

    More importantly gmail does not support S/MIME, which is the widely supported signing/encryption mechanism for email. (although basically nobody uses it).

  • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk@gmail.REDHATcom minus distro> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:16AM (#32344922)

    Sorry, should have looked a bit more before posting: []

    Far more relevant link. In particular, note the papers listed in the left column.

  • by Loualbano2 (98133) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @01:10AM (#32345178)

    A product like that came out a long time ago. []

    I don't think it's supported much anymore. It was a cool concept that just didn't seem to go anywhere.


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