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Startup That Launches Apps To Help The Political Rebels in Egypt

Question asked by kunal in #Startups & Business on Feb 18, 2011
kunal
kunal · Feb 18, 2011
Member of CrazyEngineers
A start-up company by the name of Whisper Systems, has developed two brand new mobile applications which will provide features like secret and encrypted communication to political dissidents and protesters in authoritarian countries like Egypt. A few days back, when the political unrest in Egypt was at its maxima, many leaflets and pamphlets were issued to the rebels advising them to avoid the use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to communicate, as they could alert the authorities about their intentions. The telephones were also reportedly tapped by the government with the aim of nipping the revolt in the bud itself. In these circumstances, the people found it extremely difficult to establish secure communication for planning and strategizing the plan of action for the uprising. To help such people, Whisper Systems, a startup, has come up with two Android tools RedPhone and TextSecure. The firm has been started by two security researchers, Moxie Marlinspike and Stuart Anderson. These above mentioned smart phone apps claim to provide secure dialogue between the users and complete data encryption.

[​IMG]These apps are offered free of cost in Egypt where the people protested tirelessly despite unfavorable conditions, curfew, food shortage, etc. to overthrow the tyrannical government led by President Hosni Mubarak. RedPhone and TextSecure use end to end encryption and a private proxy server to conceal the identities of the users. It confuses the authorities and prevents them from gaining access to the guarded messages and voice communications. Whisper Systems are also working with a lot of NGOs like MobileActive to create an app that will be beneficial to dissidents present anywhere on the face of the Earth.

While creating these software, the founders Marlinspike and Anderson had in mind that companies which give crucial and confidential data to their employees and customers potential could be the potential clients for Whisper Systems. Cellular networks are quite susceptible to attacks from external agencies. The financial overhead for these attacks has also become almost negligible. Once upon a time, it used to cost about USD 75,000 to breach the security of a mobile network and get the desired information. But today, many hardware oriented techniques have been developed which can perform the same task in less than $20!

Data encryption is also employed by a few well known voice Internet systems like Skype. However, the security provided by them is as such untested and unreliable. Also, no one knows the extent to which these companies co operate with the government authorities. So there is very little confidence amongst the users regarding Skype. On the other hand, the RedPhone software is of the open source type and so you don’t require any permission for auditing the app. The basic concept behind the two-way encoding process is the effective implementation of Zimmerman Real-time Transport Protocol which is a well established way of setting up a secure communication channel by interchanging the secretly encoded keys.

The research and development team at Whisper Systems are trying to develop technology that will make it impossible for anyone to know that a phone is capable of receiving and sending encrypted data. Such an app will be of great use in countries where the use of such encrypting mobile phones is prohibited. The only thing that should be taken care of is that this app is like a double edged sword and can prove to be a dangerous weapon in the arsenal of anti social elements like terrorists and the mafia. Posted in: #Startups & Business

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