If you ever want to get someone super paranoid about mobile security, have them watch the Will Smith flick Enemy of the State. While vastly over-the-top at times (hey, it's Hollywood), it makes a good point about mobile phone calls: they're easy to tap, as are text messages. But securing mobile calls just got a bit easier for iOS users, thanks to the new Signal app.
Open Whisper Communications has already brought voice and text encryption to Android, but now you can keep your phone calls private in iOS too. And the best bit? It's free.
Easy, encrypted voice calls
One of the app's advantages is ease of use. No lengthy instructions here: you just enter your phone number, get a confirmation code, have your contact list auto-imported and you're ready to go. The whole point of encryption is foiled if users find it too hard to use in the first place, after all.
How does it work? Signal uses the ZRTP protocol with AES 128 encryption. It should be able to fend off attempts by anyone trying to hack into your call, but you won't be able to tell while using the app whether it's encrypted or not: the tech is kept behind the scenes. To talk to another Signal user, all you need to do is read aloud a pair of words that appear on the screen to authenticate.
And if you're using Signal, you can call users who use the encrypted voice app Redphone – as both apps are made by the same company.
But if the apps are free, then how are their makers making money? Well, as a matter of fact they aren't: the app's development is funded by a combination of government grants and donations to make encrypted voice calls available and affordable for all.
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