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Voice encryption for mobile phones cracked: 12 out of 15 methods deemed insecure

For those of you that use voice encryption products on mobile phones the last thing you would expect is for it to be easily decrypted and intercepted. You may have shelled out good coin for your application and rely upon it for your intellectual security, but what if that security was not as tight as you had imagined, what if a readily available wiretapping utility attainable by anyone, and a simple Trojan slipped on to your device could compromise all of your calls?

Blogger, hacker and IT security expert Notrax, has done just that. For his own safety we will not reveal his name, however, Notrax has discovered that 12 commercially available mobile voice encryption products can be intercepted and compromised using a little ingenuity and creativity as he has carefully detailed on his website.

He tested 15 voice encryption products in total, 12 of them were “worthless”. It’s easy to take the software at face value when it “tells you” that the call is secured. But how does someone actually go about being sure that it is secured? Notrax did some digging and discovered he could break in to almost all of them in under 30 minutes.

Secure means that Notrax did not manage to crack it. It does not mean that someone else would not be able to crack it.

These calls can be tapped by anyone that has basic technical skills or the money to back up such an endeavour. “Statistics show Government agencies on average conduct 50,000 legal wiretaps per year (legal= those where a court order is required), (Let’s not forget Echelon) another 150,000 phones are illegally tapped by private detectives, spouses and boyfriends and girlfriends trying to catch a potential cheater. Another estimate shows up to 100,000 phones are wiretapped by companies and private industry in some form of industrial espionage. It is happening and it is a big business.”

The ones that made it were PhoneCrypt. It provides military grade technology to secure phone conversations in real time. Also, PhoneCrypt’s active protection agent monitors calls to protect against eavesdropping and wiretapping. Out of the three survivors, only PhoneCrypt’s solution was software-based.

SnapCell was safe, it’s a private encryption device that snaps on to your mobile, they claim to protect your mobile voice, fax and data communications from wiretapping, eavesdropping and line interference. SnapCell’s website has been offline since January 21st for unknown reasons.

TopSec Mobile was also secure, it’s a voice encryption device that can be connected to almost any mobile phone using Bluetooth. The encryption is embedded in the TopSec Mobile hardware to avoid the susceptibility of GSM phones to manipulation.

If you are not using one of the above three voice encryption technologies, you may want to be on the lookout for a new solution.  Although these applications cracked are not entirely secure, it would take much effort to bypass them, like having the attacker be able to load software or a trojan on your phone without you knowing.  It’s similar to a credit card, so as long as you keep it with you in a secure place you should be fine for the most part.

Check the complete list over at InfoSecurityGuard.com.



About Fabrizio Pilato

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  1. clever intelligence unity

    CEN-02 encrypted mobile communication micro SD card is another solution for people who want a secure voice call.

  2. … and phonecrypt runs on the phone itself, so Carrier IQ will bypass it on Android, Blackberry and iPhones, having direct access to the microphone and speaker (and SMS and button presses…)

  3. Everything was clarified.

    SecurStar GmbH was behind this FAKE SECURITY RESEARCH that crafted false information and was able to *CHEAT* all journalists.

    It was a marketing promotion, now they even removed the website from the net in attempt to mitigate the scandal.

    Please read here or google around, also theregister and networkworld reported it as being cheated:

    Kind Regards,
    Fabio Pietrosanti

  4. Yeah some of them are really good!!

  5. The other thing lacking here is a quality evaluation. Some of these products are junk, while others are government quality.

  6. It’s “rohde-schwarz” you doof.

  7. anyone who leaves a handset to be accessed is stupid…if you could get to the handset to install flexispy then you could eavesdrop the room or car.
    this is the most pointless test !

  8. ehhhhhhh???????????

    If so they are really scammer, maybe it’s true that they have something to hide like their private cryptographic protocol?

    Maybe there are german secret services behind them, not disclosing the crypto!

  9. The analysis is a marketing activity of SecureStar to promote PhoneCrypt product.

    Read the phonecrypt review compared to the others.

    It’s not a security testing but more a marketing review.

    Read “between the lines”, has not been written by a serious tester with the same “approach” used for other products.
    But it used a “marketing oriented” language.

    Be careful about the reliability of those reviews, is not an “independent hacker” but an anonymous identity backed by SecureStar GmbH to promote PhoneCrypt product.

  10. Fabio Pietrosanti

    The review does not consider the cryptographic strength.

    Of all the product reviewed no one use opensource cryptography and no one use standard cryptography.
    All them use “proprietary”, “closed”, “unknown” cryptographic system.

    All are using only “proprietary”, closed and supposed to be backdoorred encryption system with:
    – 0 transparency on cryptographic protocol (no one guarantee that’s secure or does not contain backdoors)
    – 0 transparency on cryptographic implementation (no one guarantee that the proprietary cryptographic protocol implementation is secure).

    Only the usage of ZRTP based secure solutions could be considered secure because match the criteria of transparency for the cryptographic protocol and their implementation.

    Unfortunately all the others cannot be considered “secure” as cryptographic require transparency.

    Fabio Pietrosanti

  11. My god, you are such an amateur.

  12. Imho people should use malware / potentially unwanted program PoP and anti-virus software on their phones, problem solved.

    I can’t help but wonder which of the 3 remaining vendors Notrax was paid by to ‘hack’ the other ones…

  13. So Phonecrypts marketing department is now called security research. Wasnt that the same guy who claimed to have an trojan and wanted to sell the removal tool a while back? Haffner or what was his name? Detecting conveniently the one trojan that the attacker chooses is a bit too fishy.

  14. Nortrax noticed that if you don’t trust your phone, you shouldn’t trust software on your phone.

    No kidding. This isn’t news. Now let’s see if security people think that these programs are secure against people who haven’t already hacked your phone. Just because they use 256-bit AES doesn’t mean that they use it correctly.

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