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24 Feb, 2014 13:42

German telecom firm to roll out text, voice encryption app

German telecom firm to roll out text, voice encryption app

Deutsche Telekom plans to launch an app for smartphones that encrypts voice and text messages. The move is the latest step taken by the firm to address users’ privacy concerns following NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden’s, mass surveillance revelations.

The cloud-based app will encrypt each voice or text exchange between two devices using a unique code, Reuters cites Deutsche Telekom as saying in a statement.

The firm will roll the app out at Cebit – the world's largest and most international computer expo – in Hanover, Germany, next month. It remains unclear when it will be available for download, though versions for Android smartphones will be released first, followed by a version for iOS smartphones. The product will be made available to business customers.
The service will be administered by Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Systems in cooperation with Sichere Mobile Kommunikation mbH (GSMK), a provider of encrypted phone services and devices.

"To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time that a major network operator [has thrown] its full weight behind end-to-end mobile voice encryption," GSMK's Chief Executive Bjoern Rupp said on Monday.

"This is not just in the form of a specialized niche product, but in the form of a mass market-compatible product that will be rolled out to all of its customers," he told Reuters at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Europe's largest annual phone industry conference.

The firm has been aggressive in bolstering its privacy features following revelations last year that the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) has been monitoring phone conversations of dozens of world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

While US President Barack Obama promised to stop spying on the German chancellor, on Sunday German media reported that the NSA has stepped up surveillance of senior German officials.

“The revelations from Edward Snowden were certainly a wake-up call,” Thomas Kremer, Board member for Data Privacy, Legal Affairs and Compliance at Deutsche Telekom, said last month. “Going forward, we need to keep our eyes wide open. Politics, business and science now need to work out solutions.”

The firm said the NSA affair was a “turning point” in how companies would go forward in the spheres of data privacy and cybersecurity.

In December, the network operator deployed the A5/3 encryption standard for voice transmission in its mobile phone network, which offers better protection against wiretapping.

"We are doing all we can to provide better security for our customers. Improved encryption of mobile phone conversations is another important step in this direction," Thomas Kremer, the board member responsible for Data Privacy, Legal Affairs and Compliance, said at the time.

The company also said it would avoid routing customers’ email traffic through US hosted infrastructure, and would increase efforts to ramp up email security in light of the NSA’s dragnet electronic surveillance data mining PRISM program.

In August, Deutsche Telekom and United Internet launched a secure electronic mail service in a bid to “secure email communication across Germany."