Silent Circle, The New Encryption App That Is Terrifying The Government

The idea is to “democratize encryption” by making it available to the non-tech-savvy with the push of a button. Will this be used for good or evil? Slate‘s Ryan Gallagher explains:

The startup tech firm Silent Circle’s groundbreaking encrypted data transfer app will enable people to send files securely from a smartphone or tablet at the touch of a button—photographs, videos, spreadsheets, you name it—sent scrambled from one person to another in a matter of seconds.

The technology uses a sophisticated peer-to-peer encryption technique that allows users to send encrypted files of up to 60 megabytes through a “Silent Text” app. The sender of the file can set it on a timer so that it will automatically “burn”—deleting it from both devices after a set period of, say, seven minutes. It’s a game-changer that will almost certainly make life easier and safer for journalists, dissidents, diplomats, and companies trying to evade surveillance.

When a user sends a picture or document, it will be encrypted, digitally “shredded” into thousands of pieces, and temporarily stored in a “Secure Cloud Broker” until it is transmitted to the recipient. Silent Circle, which charges $20 a month for its service, has no way of accessing the encrypted files because the “key” to open them is held on the users’ devices and then deleted after it has been used to open the files.

But while Silent Circle’s revolutionary technology will assist many people in difficult environments, maybe even saying lives, there’s also a dark side. Law enforcement agencies will almost certainly be seriously concerned about how it could be used to aid criminals. The FBI, for instance, wants all communications providers to build in backdoors so it can secretly spy on suspects. Silent Circle is pushing hard in the exact opposite direction—it has an explicit policy that it cannot and will not comply with law enforcement eavesdropping requests.

The new Silent Circle is due to launch later this week, hitting Apple’s App Store by Feb. 8. Expect controversy to follow.

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  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    This is awesome. I was just thinking about the need for something like this.

  • urza9814

    There are some great and trusted crypto experts who helped with this…but more than half the team is former military/NSA/CIA….So personally, I’d stick with something like PGP for now. More trustworthy and free.

    • johnnyttoxic

      Or you can also use something like the (also free) Tor Project..

    • johnnyttoxic

      Or you can also use something like the (also free) Tor Project..

      • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

        yeah, except its slow.

      • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

        yeah, except its slow.

      • urza9814

        Tor is NOT crypto, it is an onion router. It hides who is sending something (if properly configured, which is actually somewhat difficult) but not what is being sent.

        Tor and PGP compliment each other quite well; but they do not replace each other.

    • alizardx

      “The cryptographers behind this innovation may be the only ones who could have pulled it off. The team includes Phil Zimmermann, the creator of PGP encryption”

    • alizardx

      “The cryptographers behind this innovation may be the only ones who could have pulled it off. The team includes Phil Zimmermann, the creator of PGP encryption”

      • urza9814

        Yea..but PGP did not include a bunch of government agents on the design team, did not keep its method of operation secret, and has been analyzed and improved by other experts for years.

        Also, while we’re on the subject, the claim that nobody else could have pulled this is is bullshit considering that similar — and some better — software has been around for years, possibly decades.

        • alizardx

          It’s my understanding that information on what’s in Silent Circle will be published for community review Real Soon Now.

          Agreed WRT “nobody else could have pulled it off”… but Phil Z had nothing to do with that claim.

          I personally use GPG on Linux.

  • BuzzCoastin

    I doubt everything abut this story except for this:

    The new Silent Circle is due to launch later this week, hitting Apple’s App Store by Feb. 8.

  • http://twitter.com/seanifool Seani Fool

    is it open source? if not,will anyone trust it?

  • http://twitter.com/seanifool Seani Fool

    is it open source? if not,will anyone trust it?

  • Tremblin’

    Do NOT put yourself/freedom at risk by trusting technology that will mostly likely be compromised at some point. This stuff is never 100% full-proof.

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    If any of you are unfamiliar with Cryptome.org, you may wish to check it out.

    Frequently, there are some very informative exchanges about the nature and usefulness of cryptography, web anonymity, etc. There have also been some interesting discussions about the origins of such things as Tor (a U.S. Govt involved project).

    He’s not without some controversy, but in my opinion, John Young has been fighting the good fight for longer than most people have been online.

    I’ve mentioned it recently, and at the risk of belaboring a point, I’ll say that I’ve been tinkering with an open source program called Retroshare. So far I’m happy with it as a way to communicate and share files between friends.

    However, it should go without saying, unless you are an actual computer science security expert, you should never, ever, have something on your computer that you wouldn’t want a Judge to see.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jesuknecht Peter J Kuehlen

    Certainly not to be trusted if not open source, because it could just be full of back doors. Beware!

  • pjb1

    “Law enforcement agencies will almost certainly be seriously concerned about how it could be used to aid criminals.” You are assuming, against all evidence to the contrary, that cops worry about catching criminals rather than stuffing donuts in their face and “earning” themselves a fat pension on our dime. Any sane person would prefer taking his chances with freelance criminals rather than with the deadly version of the Keystone Kops we have running around these days. Don’t dial 911 folks, dial 9mm instead…

    • TROLOLOLOLOL

      Well put!

  • http://dbakeca.com Dbakeca Italia

    They no longer fear :))

  • Bubba

    can you say zero day?

  • corbin

    the app creators will almost certainly give into the fbi pressuring them and provide backdoors for them to break into the users so called “shredded” and “encrypted” files

  • 6Blackie6

    F Aemfu ksihf plauw,ncy kaop si! Piw vdbkl dherxko lzpmdy.

  • http://twitter.com/anarcho anarcho

    “The FBI, for instance, wants all communications providers to build in backdoors so it can secretly spy on suspects.” With trillions of communications intercepted and stored from every person who uses computers, cell phones, telephones (etc.) in databases in clandestine locations – which parties are they talking about? Everyone of course, and especially those who demand privacy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Lionhart40 Leon Hall

    cryptology isn’t my thing but I’m not impressed with it not being a stand alone product purchased 1 time with the ability to be personally locked and synced between 2 people.

  • Nunya Goddam-Bizness

    Trust no one, especially a “cloud” service.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rick.vansinclair1 Rick Van Sinclair

    if you made it ? you can break it !!!!

  • Siren

    WIN! Sounds like the bitcoin technology with the key software and the deleting of the details a bit like those share-picture apps that delete after a short period. I like this, looks awesome! As a future journo, the scene frightens me, i’m impressed with this technology advancement :)