Americans worried about National Security Agency surveillance are flocking to alternative technology providers and apps that will actually encrypt their phone calls, according to a Fox News report.
“Sales of online apps to encrypt cell calls are soaring,” reports Fox News correspondent David Lee Miller. “For as little as a few dollars a month there are now at least half a dozen companies such as Silent Circle and Seecrypt selling apps, making it difficult if not impossible for the government or anyone else to monitor your private communication.”
Miller notes both the sending and receiving cell phones need the app for the call to remain secure.
Michael Janke, CEO of Silent Circle boasted to Fox News that the encryption service his company runs would take “all of the world’s supercomputers put together 44 years to break the encryption of 1 message.”
Harvey Boulter, chairman of Seecrypt, revealed his company is following another trend: alternative technology providers locating overseas to avoid the reach of the NSA.
“All of our developers are based in South Africa,” Boulter said, “so we aren’t subject to the laws of the United States or the Patriot Act.”
The push for privacy has been enflamed by interviews and documents produced by whistleblower Edward Snowden, a former information technology specialist contracted to work for the NSA, who claimed the intelligence agency has the ability to “wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.”
Boulter told Fox Business in a separate interview that subscribers to his company’s app doubled in 24 hours after news of the NSA surveillance broke. The cost of his app: after an introductory free trial period, three dollars per month.
“People are getting it,” Boulter said. “People are suddenly realizing mobile is not secure.”
The Washington Post further reported that it obtained a top-secret document on a government program in which the NSA and FBI are “tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets.”
The program, code-named PRISM, was utilized to obtain information that has become a critical part of President Obama’s daily briefing, according to the Post, which added, “NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.”
Matthew Green, chief scientist at Cryptography Engineering LLC and assistant research professor at Johns Hopkins University told Fox News, “I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that the FBI and intelligence agencies have a lot of capabilities to hack into computer systems, and they can use that ability right now to eavesdrop on people even if they are using encryption.”
Miller added that some of the apps being developed also work with texting, emails and videoconferencing.
Video of the Fox News report, from KTVI-TV in St. Louis, Mo., can be seen below:
Boulter’s interview with Fox Business can also be seen, in the video below:
As WND reported, news that top companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, YouTube, PalTalk, AOL and Skype are participating in the PRISM program have sent many Americans looking for ways to protect their privacy online as well.
StartPage.com and its sister search engine, Ixquick.com, were launched in 2006 to provide a private way for Americans to conduct Internet searches. StartPage provides a private portal to Google results, and Ixquick allows users to retrieve private results from other search engines.
WND reported in 2010 when Katherine Albrecht, a Harvard-trained privacy expert who helped develop StartPage, warned, “It would blow people’s minds if they knew how much information the big search engines have on the American public. In fact, their dossiers are so detailed they would probably be the envy of the KGB.”
StartPage and Ixquick, however, say they have neither participated in PRISM nor shared Americans’ data with the federal government.
“The privacy of our users rests on three important foundations,” explained StartPage and Ixquick CEO Robert Beens. “We are based in the Netherlands, we use encrypted connections, and – most importantly – we don’t store or share any of our users’ personal search data.”
A statement from StartPage and Ixquick explained:
- No user data stored: StartPage and Ixquick never store user data, including IP addresses and search queries, so government agencies have no incentive to ask for these. This privacy is so complete; the company doesn’t even know who its customers are, so it can’t share anything with Big Brother.
- Encrypted (HTTPS) connections: StartPage and Ixquick were the first search engines to use automatic encryption on all connections to prevent snooping. When searches are encrypted, third parties like ISPs and the NSA can’t eavesdrop on Internet connections to see what people are searching for.
- Not under U.S. jurisdiction: StartPage and Ixquick are based in the Netherlands, so they are not directly subject to U.S. regulations, warrants, or court orders. They can’t be forced to participate in spying programs like PRISM. The company has never turned over a single bit of user data to any government entity in the 14 years it has been in business, which is not surprising since there is no data in the first place.
“Unfortunately, it takes a scandal like PRISM to wake people up to the erosion of privacy, ” Albrecht said. “As people get fed up with being spied on, they look for alternatives. We already serve nearly 3 million private searches each day, and we expect that number to grow as people seek shelter from search engines that store and share their private information.”
This summer, the company plans to launch a new email service called StartMail, which will provide a paid and heavily encrypted private email application. Anyone interested in being a StartMail beta tester can now sign up.