Rampant spying by governments, spates of large scale hackings, and a general atmosphere of vulnerability over the Internet and mobile networks has made many look at heavily encrypted services and devices just to feel safe even while swimming in this digital age. Silent Circle has been one of the loudest voices in that market, putting out not only encrypted communication services but also an encrypted communication device: the Blackphone. Sadly, one of its most recent endorsers is one that the startup could do without, the Islamic State, more notoriously known as ISIS.
Responding to a threat from hacktivist group Anonymous, who swore to hack into the terrorist group’s communication networks, ISIS revealed a list of devices and services that can be used by its members and supporters to escape such spying, both by governments and groups like Anonymous. At the top of that list was the Blackphone, the smartphone that Silent Circle was only too happy to boast about due to its hardened security and privacy features to keep users safe. Now ISIS is turning that into features to harm people instead.
It’s a commendation that testifies to the device’s features but also reaffirms some governments’ position about encryption. The US government, for example, strongly believes that absolute encryption without backdoors it can use can also be perverted by criminals to mask their activities. This open declaration by ISIS proves that argument, which, after the heat of the recent attacks on Paris, almost sounds plausible.
It puts Silent Circle in a very difficult position. On the one hand, now it has to make sure it is covering its bases that it won’t be held responsible, especially by the media, for future lapses in security intelligence. At the same time, howeve, it still has to make sure that it remains true to its calling, which practically means also keeping the government out of its users’ devices.
For its part, Silent Circle is promising to step up its back-end payment to ensure that no stolen credit cards or fake addresses are used. CEO Mike Janke says that most criminal elements use these means to get access to Silent Circle services. He also emphasizes that Blackphone is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for good or for ill, and that even the government can benefit from its offer of security and secrecy.
SOURCE: Gadgets 360