Mobile // Mobile Business
News
7/11/2014
10:15 AM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Silent Circle Challenges Skype, Telecoms With Encrypted Calling

Blackphone maker's affordable encrypted calls could appeal to security-conscious businesses.

10 Ways Google Must Improve Android
10 Ways Google Must Improve Android
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Silent Circle on Thursday took aim at Microsoft's Skype and other online communications services by offering an alternative that it claims is more secure and more affordable.

The company, co-founded by one of the more credible groups of security professionals in the industry -- Mike Janke, Phil Zimmermann, and Jon Callas -- introduced Global Encrypted Calling Plans for its Blackphone, a mobile phone specially designed for security that began shipping last month.

"Our newly expanded Global Encrypted Calling Plans are up to 50% less expensive than many of the telecom's existing plans, but our coverage offers about 45 more countries than they do; and oh, by the way it's encrypted to the public switch telephone network," explained CEO Mike Janke in a blog post. "That is something no other company offers in the marketplace today."

Since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year leaked documents revealing the scope of NSA intelligence gathering, the security offered by communications service providers like Skype has been shown to be less than secure. A 2013 memo from the agency revealed that its Prism program could bypass Skype encryption.

[Learn how NSA surveillance fallout is affecting tech firms' growth: In Fog Of Cyberwar, US Tech Is Caught In Crossfire.]

Despite assurances from the US government that its extensive data gathering is necessary for national security, businesses in the US and elsewhere have been struggling to come to grips with an online environment so heavily surveilled. Some companies have chosen to move data outside the US, as if datacenters elsewhere in the world are somehow beyond the reach of the NSA, other countries' intelligence services, and hackers. But it's clear to anyone concerned about security that more robust tools and services will be required to reach an acceptable level of security.

After last year, many organizations realized they should reevaluate the adequacy of their privacy and security controls. On the consumer side of the market, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have all moved to encrypt their email in transit, though Snowden in a March interview at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, urged the adoption of end-to-end encryption.

Silent Circle's Blackphone
Silent Circle's Blackphone

Silent Circle sees an opportunity to win business customers by offering strong mobile security, a strategy that worked for BlackBerry not so long ago. Janke said the mobile industry, with its high roaming charges, is ripe for disruption. One of his company's Fortune 100 customers in Zurich, he says, projects savings of $38,000 a month using Silent Circle's calling plan, in addition to benefiting from improved security.

Janke dismissed Skype as a "wiretap-friendly communication tool" and noted that "Skype is banned from being used in many of the Fortune 1000 companies and shunned by anyone expecting some level of privacy."

Silent Circle's Global Encrypted Calling Plans start at $12.95 a month, which includes use of its mobile apps, Silent Phone, Silent Text, and Silent Contacts. Blackphone lists for $629 but is currently sold out.

Nobody wants to be the next data breach headline. But ensuring that cyber security defenses are operating effectively and efficiently is a monumental challenge given the sheer volume of information coming at us. Here's how to streamline your program. Get the Metrics That Work: Practical Cyber-Security Risk Measurements report today (registration required).

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
InformationWeek Elite 100
InformationWeek Elite 100
Our data shows these innovators using digital technology in two key areas: providing better products and cutting costs. Almost half of them expect to introduce a new IT-led product this year, and 46% are using technology to make business processes more efficient.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - July 22, 2014
Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.