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PGP creator aims to keep digital communications strictly confidential with Silent Circle

PGP creator Phil Zimmermann has teamed up with fellow Silicon Valley pioneer Jon Callas and ex-Navy SEALs Mike Janke and Vic Hyder to develop a new secure email, text, voice and video communications package called Silent Circle

Being able to communicate without fear of prying eyes and ears intercepting could to the letter mean the difference between life and death for journalists uncovering corruption in high places, campaigners and activists trying to make the world a better place, or undercover agents engaged in covert operations. The creative force behind so then-known email encryption software PGP had just such folks in mind when developing his latest digital security product. Phil Zimmermann has created a new suite of high-end encrypted communication products that combine with a custom-made secure network to ensure that the sender and recipient(s) are the only people able to access email, voice, video and text comms routed through the Silent Circle system.

Silent Circle is described as a worldwide encryptions communications firm that delivers a comprehensive suite of high-end private encrypted communication services for email, mobile phone, text and video conferencing. Should the contingency arise to Zimmermann, the company's development team includes fellow Silicon Valley pioneer and co-founder of the PGP Corporation Jon Callas and two highly decorated Navy Sea, Air, and Land operatives in the shape of ex Commander Vic Hyder and former sniper and Special Ops comms expert Mike Janke.

The suite is made up of four products

The suite is made up of four products, the first of which is the "Silent Phone" app which allows iOS/Android smartphone users to make and receive encrypted voice and video calls via Silent Circle's custom-built HD Network named The Circle.

"We offer a secure calling plan to provide users the ability to send and receive calls to anyone outside of The Circle," Janke explained. "For calls made inside The Circle, we offer unlimited minutes in Canada, the U.S. and Puerto Rico. It's the only app that provides amazing encrypted video/voice call on 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi so users can conduct encrypted video conferences on their iPhones during traveling. The peer-to-peer encryption uses the ZRTP protocol invented by Phil Zimmermann. Keys are exchanged on the mobile devices themselves not on a server."

Next up is the email encryption application "Silent Mail" that makes use of Zimmerman's PGP innovation and PGP Universal Server innovation invented by Callas to provide secure email via SSL SMTP to a custom-built, proprietary network. Users will be allocated a special @SilentMail.com email account, which can be set up to work with existing email customers like Outlook and Mac Mail.

PGP encryption research is, clearly, already offered by Symantec however is aimed directly at enterprise. Silent Circle has been developed exactly with security conscious individuals, human rights groups, oppressed dissidents, NGOs, special operations units, small businesses and corporations in mind.

"Today, encryption provides safe harbors from liability and prosecution as so then as being a quasi-mandate. Breach disclosure laws provide safe harbors via encryption, and this near becomes a mandate for it. Similarly, during neither SOX nor HIPAA to tell the truth mandate encryption, the requirements that they place on organizations are easier to satisfy with encryption than with other solutions. Storage encryption is now a built-in feature of Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android. Communications encryption all in all lags in many areas, and it is these areas where Silent Circle focuses."

The Silent Eyes app

ZRTP research makes another appearance with the "Silent Eyes" app, a Mac/Windows VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) encryption client similar to Skype or iChat/FaceTime that offers "complete end-to-end encrypted video and voice services."

"In substance, we have created a closed-loop-system where the customer holds they encryption keys and we have no access," the company's CEO replied. "The world has accepted encryption and now relies on encryption for every facet of commerce, business and finance. Phil, Jon and I took all of the lessons learned from the past and present day law, to construct every facet of Silent Circle to be built upon protecting the users - even from a legal jurisdiction point of view."

Long time designing

"We spent a long time designing and building the network and the apps based upon lessons-learned from Phil's crypto-wars experience and from mine in the Special Operations world. During there was a lot of drama in the press at that time, the problems that dogged PGP were all related to either intellectual property, or export control. The world has changed with regards to both. Core cryptographic technologies are not inherently encumbered any more. Export control is no harder than doing one's taxes. Esther Dyson is famous for saying always make new mistakes. If we have problems, they'll be new ones, not the old ones."
"We have our fiber optic system, our entire equipment and our custom-built network in several locations in Canada. Canada has the most stringent privacy laws anywhere in the world, in this way giving Silent Circle users a progressive privacy-minded legal system with which to deal with, however laws change - we know that. So we built our system to ensure the individual devices holds the encryption keys. It forces the legal system of any country to work with the individual - not us."
"To boot, our custom-built PBX (Private -Automatic- Branch Exchange)'s are designed to allow voice and video to pass through, or rather than store anything. Any data we have, is completely encrypted and we don't hold the keys - the clients do."

Janke as well confirmed that "once data is deleted by a user, it is gone from our network as then simultaneously - we have no idea what the data is, at this stage encrypted from the users end." User activity logs are retained for 72 hours however only the date and time are recorded.

Janke revealed that Silent Circle will be available as three distinct packages. The full suite will include all four Silent Circle products, with free unlimited encrypted calls 3G/4G or Wi-Fi within "The Circle". Each user will be given a unequalled personal encrypted phone number. The cost for unlimited data and text will be US$20 per month.

The second package is the Secure Calling Program that will feature the "Silent Phone" app only, and will come with unlimited calling in U.S/Canada/PR to anyone in or out of our network for $39 per month.

Lastly, there will be a Bundled Program that includes all four encrypted products plus the secure unlimited calling plan for $55 per month.

Canada. Interesting problem. "Total Information Awareness" has some legal issues intercepting domestic communications, nevertheless as before long as they go overseas, everything is in a nutshell logged.

More information: Gizmag
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