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May 29, 2013updated 05 Jun 2017 11:24am

Encrypted phones not solely for news of the world victims

Technology is often seen as an underappreciated side of private banking. Online banking was slow to introduce during the 2000s and still remains something of an enigma to traditional clients.

By Oliver Williams

Technology is often seen as an underappreciated side of private banking. Online banking was slow to introduce during the 2000s and still remains something of an enigma to traditional clients. And then, why bother with online passwords when part of the advantage of having a private bank account is to have your bank manager on speed dial. But herein lies a growing concern – what if someone were to tap into your phone call, or email, or text message?

It is not just News of the World journalists who have the means to hack phones. As smartphones become more and more integrated in our business and private lives, they become a lucrative target for business information or intellectual property. A tapped call between bank manager and client, or email between CEO and chairman, is actually far more valuable on the cyber criminal market than Hugh Grant’s voicemail messages.

This is the reasoning behind Silent Circle, a company that designs encryption software especially for smartphones. "The rising tide of surveillance is getting worse and worse and needs to be halted", says one of Silent Circle’s founders, Phil Zimmermann. Retired Navy SEALs, Mike Janke and Vic Hyder, are Silent Circle’s other co-founders. Janke explains that at the touch of a button, users can encrypt emails, text messages and mobile video phone calls – a "complete encryption package". All this costs $20 a month.

Credentials for Silent Circle don’t come any higher than their recent partnering with Vertu. Vertu is the Swiss watchmaker equivalent to mobile phones and their new Vertu Ti comes with Silent Circle already embedded on the handmade device (along with an app linking directly to Vertu’s concierges). The Vertu Ti’s price tag, which is in the region of $10,000, says as much about the phone as it does the buyer – the phone is targeted at high net worth individuals who need their privacy to be guaranteed.

Already in the "Circle" are government departments and former heads of state and those likely to carry around a Vertu include Russian oligarchs, Gulf oil sheiks and News of the World victims. Whether the price tag is $10,000 for a Vertu, or $20 for the Silent Cloud software, this type of technology could be of increasing importance as client confidentiality and security, particularly online, becomes paramount.

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