Electronic Weapons: Blackberry Plays Defense

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February 9, 2010:  Israel has joined France and, to a lesser extent, the United States, in producing a cell phone technology that enables troops and government officials to use their cell phones for discussing secret stuff. The Israel approach is to create an encrypted military cell phone network, that a special model of an existing cell phone will be able to use. Late last year, a French firm has developed a cell phone cryptography technology strong enough to satisfy French government and NATO security standards. The president of France was pleased, and his subordinates were relieved, because their boss is an enthusiastic smart phone user.

Smart phones are popular because they can do so much, particularly accessing the Internet. However, wireless devices, especially cell phones, give military and government security officials a very bad feeling. But in the last few years, several prominent heads-of-state (including the current American president), who were avid smart phone users, came to power. They were all told by their security personnel that smart phones were not secure enough (from eavesdropping) for the head of a major nation to use. But when you are the top guy in the government, you can order subordinates to find solutions, or else. The U.S. president got a customized version of his favorite Blackberry phone, with security features installed. American troops, in particular, are eager to get something similar, so they can legally use their cell phones in combat zones.

These secure smartphones are showing up in greater numbers, from a lot more companies. By next year, some 20,000 senior French government officials will have the new, secure, smart phones. Meanwhile, smart phones like the Blackberry are increasingly under attack by hackers, and have been shown to be vulnerable. The threat is real, and the solution has yet to undergo, and survive, a serious attack.

 


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