The Rise Of The Crypto Phone

Cell phones just got a whole lot more secure.
Good luck hacking into this guy. Photograph by Brian Klutch

Between revelations of NSA spying and a sense that marketers and hackers are picking our digital pockets, we’re all getting a little edgy about cellular security. Hence the rapid growth of the cryptophone industry. Most of the handsets run on “hardened” versions of Android that make privacy the default for app permissions and network connections. Wary users can also employ tools to convert voice or text messages into spy-proof gibberish. FreedomPop ($189) uses a virtual private network, while the Silent Circle tool runs on two products released in June: the Blackphone ($629) and the Vertu Signature Touch ($10,800, with a silent alarm if you’re kidnapped for ransom). The $3,500 GSMK CryptoPhone’s firewall even blocks snoops that can impersonate cell towers.

A Product Guide for the Mildly Paranoid


StartPage Search Engine

Free on any platform

Pros It allows you to query Google without accepting cookies or giving your IP address, and to use Google as a proxy, clicking through to third-party sites.

Con Proxy surfing feature can be slow.


**RedPhone and TextSecure by Whisper Systems **

Free Android; iOS coming late summer

Pros Apps enable end-to-end encrypted calling and messaging. Open-source code allows for shared fixes.

Con Your callers also need to have the apps installed for the encryption to work.


Tor Browser Bundle

Free Windows, OS X, Linux, Orbot for Android

Pros The preconfigured browser routes you through a worldwide network of proxy servers, anonymizing IP numbers.

Con NSA views Tor usage as suspicious.


Tails Operating System


Pros Housed on a USB memory stick or a DVD, this Linux variant OS uses only anonymous Tor Internet connections and leaves no evidence of your session.

Con Some popular software packages won’t run on Linux.


**Hidecell Faraday Cage Cellphone Bag **


Pros Storing your phone in a metal-lined bag will eliminate surveillance possibilities by blocking cell-tower signals, along with your Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth connections.

**Con **Mom can’t get through either.


This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Popular Science.