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Summary:

The strategic partnership is important for Silent Circle, as it promises to make the encrypted Skype rival much more usable by widening its pool of users.

Phil Zimmermann, co-founder Silent Circle & inventor of PGP. (Photo courtesy of Phil Zimmermann)
photo: Phil Zimmermann

The Dutch telecoms giant KPN has partnered up with Silent Circle, the U.S. security firm that boasts privacy veterans Phil Zimmermann (pictured above) and Jon Callas among its founders, to offer encrypted voice and video calls, as well as secure messaging, to its customers across the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

Silent Circle was founded a few years ago by Zimmermann and Callas (who set up Pretty Good Privacy or PGP in the 1990s) and ex-Navy Seal Mike Janke. The company hit the headlines last year when it shut down its Silent Mail email service to protect users’ privacy, but its big products have always been encrypted voice, video and text communications for mobile and desktop.

The main advantages of these services are that no metadata is saved, and there’s no centralized repository for the encryption keys that can be legally or illegally accessed by law enforcement, intelligence agencies or other hackers. (This was the problem with Silent Mail — the usability of webmail suffers if users have to handle their own keys, and email leaks metadata by its nature.)

The customers for Silent Circle’s services, which amount to a super-secure Skype alternative, include Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and many other businesses and professionals that have to take security and confidentiality seriously. Now that user base may be set to grow quite dramatically.

As KPN said in a (Dutch) statement on Wednesday, it is the first telco to offer Silent Circle to its iOS and Android-toting customers, and indeed it has exclusivity on the product in the markets it serves.

Silent Phone and Silent Text will from June be offered in KPN’s Open Cloud Store, which largely caters to the telco’s business customers, at a monthly price of $9.95 or an annual price of $99.95, according to a PC World report.

This really is a big deal for Silent Circle, as its services can only encrypt communications between customers that have Silent Circle installed on their devices – the bigger the pool, the more usable the tool. KPN runs several brands in the Netherlands, as well as Base in Belgium and E-Plus in Germany. Silent Circle also recently inked a distribution deal with inTechnology for the Australian and New Zealand markets.

The next big step will be the launch of Blackphone, a thoroughly Silent Circle-ified handset that will be made by Spanish manufacturer Geeksphone. It’s also worth keeping an eye on Dark Mail, a replacement for Silent Mail that is being developed in collaboration with Lavabit, the other notable secure mail service to shutter its doors last year in the wake of the NSA scandal.

  1. KPN is not even capable of running their business, like accounting, customer service, etc., which ought to be expected of a large company.

    This is a very badly run company with very bad accountants.

    The FIOD, the Dutch fiscal police, must start an investigation into this misery of the stock market.

    With KPN part of this venture, failure is guaranteed !

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  2. Problems:

    (1) Silent circle is closed source, so not audit-able, so untrustworthy
    (2) You download it from the KPN store, so binary can be tampered with, so untrustworthy
    (3) If KPN cared they would fix their BROKEN GSM implementation
    (4) Network can still log metadata, so system is untrustworthy
    (5) There are free, open source, solutions to this problem, that KPN could give to their customers, for free, so KPN’s motives are in question

    Need I go on?

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  3. IF you’ll pay attention, you’ll note their IS NO SECURE E-MAIL….. as part of the ‘service’…. So until the E-Mail component, or it’s shut-down Lavabit competitor gets ‘re-added’ to the available services, this is of very little value.

    Try again Phil….

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