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Speaking in twisted tongues

Safer text (and speech) with the crypto mobile

A mobile phone that can encrypt conversations is now available worldwide. The cost is prohibitive, but business execs, government officials, law enforcement officers (oh, and spooks) and the paranoid can now buy the ability to speak anywhere safe in the knowledge that their verbal secrets are safe.

TopSec's phone is based on Siemens' S35i GSM handset, modified with a 'crypto-chip', said Stefan B"ttinger of German telecomms security firm Rohde & Schwarz, which is selling the phones. The device uses a combination of asymmetric 1,024bit and symmetric 128bit encryption - standard stuff when applied to emails, for example.

Like the ordinary S35i the TopSec GSM is a dual-band phone, so it can be used pretty much anywhere in Europe. But with a list price of £1,910, for one phone, only the combat-ready, corporates and conspiracy theorists out there will be buying them.

After dialing, the user simply presses the 'crypto' button to establish a secure connection. Of course, there's a hidden cost – you do need to be calling a similarly capable phone, e.g. another TopSec GSM phone, or a fixed-line phone such as Rohde & Schwarz's Elcrodat 6-2 ISDN phone.

Rohde & Schwarz is targeting "middle- and higher-level management" and government users as potential customers, B"ttinger said. The German Bundeswehr (the federal army) recently bought several thousand Elcrodat phones, he added.


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