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Encrypted Texts coming to 10 million Android users

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Written by James Sandri
11/12/2013

Several months ago we investigated the ramifications of NSA’s PRISM program and how the online community was reacting. We offered a number of solutions that allowed users to encrypt both their calls and SMS messages to stop outside sources from listening in. While the good news was that there was quite a few applications that do just that (and for free) our main gripe with this was these applications required people on both ends to have the application in order to encrypt.


What about if the OS of the phone itself has phone encryption built it?


CyanogenMod, the massively popular modification for Android phones with over 10 million current users is doing just that. They’ve recently introduced encrypted SMS messages as a default setting for their operating system. Interest in securing our phone calls and SMS conversations has risen dramatically after months of report after report of NSA’s phone tapping and internet surveillance and Cyanogen’s new release may mark a massive shift to encrypted calls for their 10 million users.

 

Cyanogen has teamed up with Open Whisper Systems, makers of RedPhone (which we reviewed in our previous article) to bring us built-in SMS encryption by default. This means that all of Cyanogens users who update will automatically be using encrypted messages. Outlined on Whisper Systems own blog here is the process of which the encryption works. To break it down simply, they’ve changed the stock messaging  protocol of Android over to their own secure protocol that stops any sort of middle man from intercepting the message and reading the contents. The protocol will detect when a user is sending a message to another Cyanogen encrypted user and will automatically encode the message waiting to be decrypted by the user on the other end. This way even if the message is intercepted, the contents will be unreadable. Better yet, because they’ve changed the protocol rather than editing just the Android messaging app these feature will work from any other messaging app of your choice or when you send in app SMSs to a friend.


The linked article above goes into even more detail running through what sort of encryption they use and how strong it is. With reports of NSA’s surveillance getting more and more evasive it does make you wonder if they could break this new encryption that Whisper Systems is offering.  For those looking to try out the new version of Cyanogen
hit up their site here to see how to get started.

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