It used to be that top-secret communication gadgets were reserved for the military and security services.
Now, a German company is selling a cellular phone that offers consumers military-grade privacy.
The TopSec cell phone is being marketed toward corporate executives and government officials who want to discuss sensitive matters wherever they are.
Security experts believe the $3,000 phone is the first mass-marketed mobile phone that offers a reliable, secure conversation with a high level of encryption.
“They’re especially aimed at companies who want to be sure they’re not being spied on by their competitors,” said Stefan Boettinger, spokesman for Rohde & Schwarz, the Munich-based company that modified the Siemens S35i mobile telephones to add the security features.
The phone’s introduction marks yet another step in making secure digital communications available to a mass market.
Just as networked computers are vulnerable to viruses and hackers without proper security, so are cellular phones exposed to telecommunications hackers.
For now, Rohde & Schwarz has no plans to sell the TopSec in the United States. But experts believe it’s only a matter of time before the encrypted-signal cell phones will be marketed in North America and elsewhere.
“They’ve got a good business there,” said David Farber, a University of Pennsylvania professor and former chief technologist at the Federal Communications Commission. “There are lots of people who’d rather not have others listening in on their cell phones.”