What is a Cryptophone?

Malcolm Tatum

Also known as crypto phones, cryptophones are communication devices that make use of advanced security features as a means of minimizing the potential for interception of voice and data transmissions during a live exchange. The ability to circumvent many forms of electronic surveillance and lessen the potential for eavesdropping makes the cryptophone ideal for use in a number of business settings, as well as for high profile government officials and intelligence operatives. While there are several strategies used in different cryptophone designs, most employ a process involving the encryption of signals that make the interception more difficult to manage or decipher into usable data, usually with the aid of a cryptographic chip.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

In some cryptophone designs, the system functions by making use of two encryption tools rather than a single safeguard. Often, the approach is to make use of more than one algorithm that encrypts the outbound and inbound signals once, and then a second time before reaching the point of termination. This essentially makes it possible to discourage multi-layered surveillance techniques that may be able to override one of the encryption codes, but not both. The end result is the ability to use a handheld phone device with Internet capability to not only use voice communications with relatively little concern of interception, but also to transmit documents via the secure point-to-point connection.

The use of cryptophone technology requires that both the point of origin and the point of termination make use of devices that are capable of the same level of encryption. This means that in order to conduct a truly secure conversation, both parties must utilize the same type of cryptophone, operating with the same type of protection protocols. While it is possible to obtain a degree of protection on a connection that uses a cryptophone at one end but not the other, there is always the chance of the unprotected end being monitored and data being intercepted as it is sent or received.

In many nations around the world, cryptophone use is legal for private citizens as well as government officials. This has led to a growing industry in which relatively inexpensive communication equipment featuring encrypted security has become readily available. Along with purchase through authorized vendors in brick and mortar settings, it is also possible to purchase equipment of this type online. In nations where there are still restrictions on the use of these types of devices, there are often severe penalties for possessing phones of this type illegally. Those penalties may include anything from stiff fines to imprisonment.

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