PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SNOOPING!! Voice Telephone Communications


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Voice telephone calls are vulnerable to snooping by official and unofficial entities. Until recent years, the monitoring of telephone calls required specific approval from a court and was not done with great regularity. What are the options available to protect and secure phone calls?

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PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SNOOPING!! Voice Telephone Communications

  1. 1. PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SNOOPING!! (From the NSA, FBI, Hackers & Foreigners) E mai l Mal c o l m at : SpeakUp@Mal col mO © 2013 Mal col m O ut Loud, LLC White Paper Avoid Unauthorized Monitoring and Storage of Your Voice Telephone Communications Exclusive Series 1 of 3
  2. 2. Situation Voice telephone calls are vulnerable to snooping by official and unofficial en- tities. What are the options available to protect and secure phone calls? Executive Summary & BackGround Until recent years, the monitoring of telephone calls required specific ap- proval from a court and was not done with great regularity. Early telephone technology made it difficult to tap calls without a physical intercept tap at each central office. With the emergence of Digital Telephony in the 80’s and the increasing use of digital telephone exchange switches, tapping phones at the phone company's central office became difficult to execute, or in some cases, impossible. In response, the U.S. Congress passed the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to aid law enforcement in its effort to conduct criminal investigations requiring wiretapping of digital telephone networks. The Act requires telecommunications companies to make it possible for law enforcement agencies to tap any phone conversations carried out over its networks, as well as making call detail records (metadata) available. CALEA came into force on January 1, 1995. Broadband Internet access providers, and providers of interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service are defined by the FCC to be “telecom- munications carriers” and now must meet the requirements of CALEA. In 2004, the FCC extended the provisions of CALEA to include the ability to per- form surveillance of all communications which travel over the Internet -- such as Internet traffic and VoIP. (Vonnage, NetTalk, Ooma, MagicJack, etc.) Problem Under earlier laws, the monitoring or recording of telephone calls (landline or cellular) required an order or warrant issued by a Court. However, since 9/ 11, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been authorized by Congress and by executive order of the President to monitor, without search warrants, E mai l Mal c o l m at : SpeakUp@Mal col mO © 2013 Mal col m O ut Loud, LLC
  3. 3. the phone calls, Internet activity (Web, e-mail, etc.), text messaging, and other communication involving any party believed by the NSA to be outside the U.S., even if the other end of the communication lies within the U.S. Re- cent reports confirm that NSA and other agencies have recorded both the metadata and content of communications in the US and abroad. Until recently, it was assumed that Skype and other peer-to-peer VoIP voice systems were difficult, or impossible, for snoopers to penetrate. Since there is no central point where taps can be inserted into the communications channels, monitoring a call requires that the end points (called and calling parties) must be compromised. Very recently it has been discovered that in February 2011, Project CHESS was formalized between Skype and the NSA which provides for a full interception interface. (Monitoring may have actu- ally begun years earlier.) In addition, hackers are also targeting cellular communications and voice mail systems. Even UK newspapers have been convicted of hacking the cel- lular and voice mail systems of politicians and key public figures in the United Kingdom. The result of these developments is that all traditional telephony, including cellular and VoIP, is now subject to complete monitoring and recording with- out a search warrant. Solution For years, companies and individuals have developed products and tech- niques to protect their communications from interception or compromise. And the Snoopers have been busy, too! There are several commercial telephone instruments that digitize and en- crypt conversations and send them over the normal public telephone net- work but only to another subscriber using the same equipment. They are expensive and are sometimes tricky to use. There are also commercial ver- sions of equipment originally deployed by the government which represent viable solutions for companies concerned about communications between multiple facilities (since you must always talk to a compatible unit at the ! E mai l Mal c o l m at : SpeakUp@Mal col mO © 2013 Mal col m O ut Loud, LLC
  4. 4. other end of the circuit.) New commercial products will most likely now ap- pear as a result of the current publicity and public concern about Snooping. For the past few years, a variety of secure phones built on the VoIP protocol were introduced. While they seemed to provide a valuable service, they were not commercially successful. Recently, they have been replaced by Skype, Google Voice and similar systems. However, as previously noted, these are probably not secure from Snooping! Recently, there are several apps being offered for encrypting cell phone calls. They are offered by companies based outside the US that believe they are not subject to NSA Surveillance. Two of the most popular are Silent Circle and Seecrypt. Both work on SmartPhones under IOS and Android. SilentCircle ( is actually a suite of products for secur- ing all communications, including voice, data, text, email and video. For mo- bile communications, the actual voice content is sent over Peer-to-Peer 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi connections between Silent Circle subscribers. Based on encryption technology from Phil Zimmerman, the inventor of PGP, this service provides a high level of commercial privacy. It is available as a subscription with prices based on the services desired. For $10 per month personal users get a comprehensive package of services. Its servers are not located in the US which provides protection against some legal snooping. Of course, the hackers are still prying! Their private service architecture means that they do not have or store their customer’s clear communications or the encryption keys for the call. However, there is some personal information in their possession and they have disclosed that they will comply with legal re- quests for its release. Another similar service is offered by Seecrypt ( For $3 per month, after the free trial period, subscribers can securely call other Seecrypt subscribers worldwide over 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi and even satellite broad- band services. Again, their servers, designers and operators are located outside the US to provide the highest level of privacy to their subscribers. While today they do not offer the broad range of services available from Si- lentcircle, Seecrypt is an exciting app that is available from Google Play and the App Store. ! E mai l Mal c o l m at : SpeakUp@Mal col mO © 2013 Mal col m O ut Loud, LLC
  5. 5. Time will tell if these apps work reliably and are truly private. Please note that this is not an endorsement for these products and the authors have no direct or indirect business interest in them. Additional suppliers will certainly appear on the market. It is this author’s opinion that this is the only currently viable communica- tions scheme that has the possibility of providing true long term privacy. Stay tuned for new offerings in the near future. Hiding from interception re- quires fundamental change in the existing communication platforms and methodology. You must do things differently to improve privacy. While not optimal, you can also avoid detection and thereby have some short term privacy with the use of Pre-Paid Cellular Phones that are pur- chased with cash. Both parties must simultaneously change phones for maximum privacy. The metadata will be tracked and the content probably recorded but it may not be detected as a “contact of interest” initially. How- ever with the content and metadata of all calls being saved for years, future Snooping is highly possible. Summary Having a truly private telephone call in today’s environment is virtually im- possible but there is hope with the new communications products becoming available. And, in the future we will certainly see more choice because the knowledge of the extensive surveillance systems that have been deployed and the capability of ”hackers” will spur additional product development. ! E mai l Mal c o l m at : SpeakUp@Mal col mO © 2013 Mal col m O ut Loud, LLC
  6. 6. About The Author Robert D. (Bob) Francis Technology Expert Managing Partner Milford Communications Partners After an extensive career in telecommunications and data communications companies, Francis founded Milford Communications in 1993 to promote the development of high technology companies and projects. Francis directed a high technology practice in Washington DC with a focus on Satellite, Inter- net, Multimedia and Wireless technologies. Malcolm Out Loud Chairman, The Out Loud Network TV and Radio Host The brand of Malcolm Out Loud is delivered around the world and across multiple platforms. We live in a world that is communications rich and fast changing... which creates a thirst for knowledge and an appetite for truth! Malcolm is a great alternative to the talking heads that influence the head- lines with their agenda driven analysis. Malcolm is first and foremost an In- novator and a Visionary who inspires and encourages people around the world to tap into their greatest strength; themselves! www.MalcolmOutLoud.TV ! E mai l Mal c o l m at : SpeakUp@Mal col mO © 2013 Mal col m O ut Loud, LLC