Internet security: Let’s keep this between us

Twenty years ago Phil Zimmermann released encryption software called Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). His aim was to offer free tools to help human-rights advocates exchange data securely. The program was better than pretty good; it fell afoul of munitions export rules of the day that classified sufficiently strong scrambling as a weapon, leading to a three-year investigation by American authorities. Charges were never filed, however, and PGP popularised the use of public-key cryptography to allow parties who may never have met to communicate without fear of snooping.Silent Circle, Mr Zimmermann’s latest firm, which he founded with a former Navy SEAL, extends privacy protection to voice and video calls, and instant and text messaging, as well as e-mail. On October 16th the company unveiled its software for the iPhone and other iOS devices that, for $20 a month, handles encrypted chat and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calls. A version for Android is coming soon.

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