Cellcrypt for BlackBerry Secures Cellular Voice Conversation

Cellcrypt has released what it says is the very first BlackBerry voice encryption product that enables organizations to secure users' voice traffic. But it's only available for the Bold 9000...and it sure isn't cheap.
  • Al Sacco (CIO (US))
  • 07 May, 2009 09:09

The BlackBerry platform is known for its impressive security safeguards; Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) is literally designed from the ground up to meet enterprise security needs, and its various international security certifications attest to its effectiveness. However, there's one component of the BlackBerry ecosystem that's largely unguarded from potential threats: phone calls, i.e., voice traffic.

RIM's Manager of BlackBerry Developer Relations, Mike Kirkup, had this to say when asked if BlackBerry voice traffic is secure:

"I wish I could say it was. We just use normal voice channels."

That means that even though the data stored on your BlackBerry is protected, along with your e-mail and other messaging, you could potentially be opening yourself up to trouble every time you make a voice call.

And according to Cellcrypt CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth, exploits meant to tap into BlackBerry voice transmissions are entirely plausible--though they're also rare at this point. That's where Cellcrypt Mobile for the BlackBerry Bold comes in.

Cellcrypt, which is the first product of its kind for BlackBerry according to both Kirkup and Bransfield-Garth, aims to fill in the missing piece of the BlackBerry-security-puzzle by encrypting voice communications. The product is meant for use in government, pharmaceutical, legal and finance sectors, but any senior level business executive--or anyone else--who frequently discusses sensitive matters via BlackBerry could benefit.

Cellcrypt has been available for Nokia and Windows Mobile devices for six months. And organizations can already purchase special, "secure" devices that protect phone calls through contractors like General Dynamics, maker of the Sectera Edge. But such devices are bulky and awkward, and more importantly they stand out among other more common handhelds, like BlackBerrys. Businesspeople traveling in sensitive areas often wish to remain inconspicuous and to draw as little attention as possible to themselves. Cellcrypt provides the piece of mind that conversations are secure without modifying a device's appearance.

The application can be turned on and off at will by users, and calls using Cellcrypt are initiated through its own contact list so there's never any confusion about whether or not calls are protected. It works on any IP-enabled network, including 2G (GPRS, EDGE, 1xRTT), 3G (UMTS, HSDPA, EV-DO) and Wi-Fi, according to the company.

However, it can reduce your BlackBerry battery life by about 10 percent when in use, and call recipients must also employ Cellcrypt to ensure secure conversations, according to Bransfield-Garth. There's also currently no way for administrators to ensure that users are employing Cellcrypt; it's entirely in the user's hands to turn on Cellcrypt and initiate calls via the app. And it only works on RIM's BlackBerry Bold 9000 device.

The company is currently in the process of obtaining the U.S. government's FIPS140-2 certification for the new BlackBerry app, and Bransfield-Garth expects it to be awarded some time in the third quarter of the year.

Cellcrypt for BlackBerry currently goes for roughly US$1,000 per user for a year of service.

More information on Cellcrypt Mobile for BlackBerry is available on the company's website.