Unless you're a former News of the World employee in denial, or you've been living on a remote island cut off from all communication for the last ten years, it might have come to your attention: there's an epic scandal currently unfolding on our news programmes. Hacking used to refer to a really bad cough, but nowadays it seems no celebrity, sports player, politician or crime victim is safe from unscrupulous private investigators listening in on their mobile phone conversations, or reading their e-mails.
In perfect timing, for the run up to the Olympic Games, Croydon based security specialists IntSec Limited has developed a mobile phone that uses the Enigma encryption system developed, by Deutsche Telecom. This was following a request from former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröeder, after he was hacked in the 1990s. The result is the Tripleton Enigma 2, which is now being promoted by IntSec as a 'James Bond' phone that is 100 per cent secure, from interception.
When you take the Enigma 2 out of the box, there's therefore a great expectation that you will be looking at something awesome. However, just as the original Enigma encryption system, in WWII, which was a rather dull box, the 2012 version is equally unassuming. In fact, if you were unaware of its major selling point, you'd probably dismiss it out of hand - as a cheap backup, for your main phone.
Styled almost entirely in black plastic, with a silver strip round the side and a matching silver D-pad on the front, this is a very small and slim unit (116 x 50 x 15mm), weighing a throwaway 95 grams. If James Bond was using this, he might feel less cool than usual as it feels like a throwback - not having a touch screen, the controls feel decidedly tacky under the fingers, plus there's no virtual keyboard, for fast texting.
The built-in 3-megapixel camera is also underwhelming in an age where 5MP-8MP is the norm: therefore, it's unlikely that you'll be posting the video footage anywhere, other than the usual social networks. On the left side, you'll find a Micro SD card slot (it comes with 2GB supplied and can be expanded to 8GB), on the right, a USB port for charging and linking to a PC, plus a camera button. Even the 2.4in colour display would fail to bring a gleam to 007's eye, as its native resolution is a rather dim 240 x 320 pixels, with 256k colours. The kit is rounded off, with an unremarkable pair of earphones with an integrated microphone. You may be pleased to learn that an FM radio is included, together with MP3 playback. Somehow we doubt whether our superspy will be listening in to enemy transmissions, via this route.
The back cover lifts off comparatively easily and bearing in mind the price of these machines, we would have expected at least some attempt to make the Enigma 2 relatively ruggedized, waterproof or at least shockproof. It's all well and good to have failsafe security, but if the phone falls apart every time you drop it, it does call into question the whole strategy behind the design.
So, we come back to the central purpose of the Enigma 2 - to keep those sneaky journalists and foreign powers from monitoring your calls and this is where IntSec finally earn their money. The way the encryption works is by installing a second SIM card directly above the usual card, in the back of the unit, and this 'crypto' card contains secure keys that are unique codes - that one Enigma 2 phone uses, to talk to another.
The encryption process is broken down into three elements. Digital Identification, involves the signed digital key pair, programmed to the 'crypto' card. No record is kept of these keys after manufacture and any unauthorised attempt to access the information via scanning, or via mechanical devices, results in the destruction of the card. Next is the Authentication step, where two Enigma 2 phones exchange keys and correctly identify each other, using 1024 bit RSA encryption. If either mobile at this point detects any third-party intrusion, the call will be automatically terminated. The final stage is Voice Encryption, which uses an equally powerful AES 256 bit session key that is randomly created, during the Authentication step. This is unique to every call that is made, or received.
The whole process from pressing the encryption button on the front of the phone, to the start of the conversation, takes around seven seconds. This remains the standard speed, even if you're calling across the globe. We found that the entire process was smooth and simple to operate, especially as no extended number sequences have to be punched in, before secure calls can be made. In addition, the clarity of the line and voices was exceptionally good, thanks in part to IntSec's CrystalSpeech echo cancellation system.
The Enigma 2 is a Tri-band 900/1800/1900 MHz mobile phone, so you can literally take it with you anywhere. In terms of battery life, you can manage four hours of encrypted calls before you need to recharge (a more generous 180 hours on standby). Unencrypted calls can also be made in the usual way, and you have both GPRS internet access and Bluetooth, for hands-free operation. IntSec has also promised future software upgrades, which will enable encrypted text and picture messaging. This will hopefully prevent Scarlett Johansson's nude photos being spread round the Web again, or government aides being caught texting embarrassing messages, about their employer's incompetence.
There is absolutely no doubt that IntSec has come up with as near fool proof, a security mobile phone, as is currently possible and that it will be a strong seller for celebs, spooks and government agencies. It is a shame the phone itself is not more modern or ruggedized, for the steep price that you have to pay.
Pros: Excellent secure encryption, good voice quality.
Cons: Flimsy plastic build with no protection from shock or the elements.
Price: £1320 inc. VAT
- 1024bit RSA encryption for key exchange and 256bit AES encryption for voice, with a hardware random number generator for exceptionally high security
- GSM tri-band 900/1800/1900 MHz • GPRS internet access for web and email
- Bluetooth handsfree (for non-crypto calls only)
- Micro SD card storage up to 8GB (2GB supplied)
- 3.0 megapixel camera
- MP3 ringtones and music, FM radio
- Apps including calendar, world clock, calculator
- USB charging and mass storage
- SMS text messaging - encrypted messaging coming soon
- MMS picture messaging - encrypted messaging coming soon
- Dimensions (HxWxD): 116 x 50 x 15mm
- Weight: 95g
- 2.4in colour display, 240 x 320 pixels 256k colours
- Standby time: 180 hours (dependent on network conditions)
- Talk time: 4 hours (dependent on network conditions)
- Compatible with the original Tripleton Enigma phone