Scrambling the message: AT&T launches encrypted voice service for feds

Anonymity, simplified security process part of AT&T Encrypted Mobile Voice's charm

Federal agencies now have another option for providing their personnel with secure communications. AT&T has launched a new encryption service designed to offer high-level security features for calls on the company’s wireless network. The service is aimed at government bureaus, law enforcement, financial services institutions and international businesses.

The AT&T Encrypted Mobile Voice service consists of a cryptographic engine inserted into a smartphone’s microSD slot. The device combines KoolSpan’s TrustChip and SRA International’s One Vault Voice capabilities into a small, hardened and self-contained unit. Handheld devices equipped with the engine can make automatically encrypted calls to other users within the AT&T secure network.

Developed by SRA, the One Vault Voice application integrates the security functions of the TrustChip with an interface that allows users to place and receive encrypted calls. The tool integrates with a mobile phone’s operating and address book functions to provide an on-demand security function that provides mutual authentication and end-to-end encryption when the high-security call mode is enabled. The Encrypted Mobile Voice meets government standards for controlled unclassfied information, and has National Institute of Standards and Technology FIPS 140-2 validation.

Besides providing encrypted calls, the Encrypted Mobile Voice service also offers its users some anonymity, explained Pat Burke, SRA’s senior vice president of Offerings and Products. Current encrypted handhelds are bulky, awkward to use and advertise the fact that they are secure devices. Because the AT&T system resides on a card, it can make any handheld a secure device, which makes secure calls discrete and increases users’ peace of mind, he said.

Another advantage for the system is that the cryptographic keys are built into the chip, automating the secure call process. Burke noted that SRA is teaming with AT&T for the rollout of the service. Besides the U.S. government sector, the encryption system will next target Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) networks. He explained that European government and private sector organizations have shown interest in the capability.

The AT&T Encrypted Mobile Voice system currently supports BlackBerry smartphones and Windows Phones on the AT&T wireless network. Burke said that the system will soon include other Code Division Multiple Access mobile devices, such as laptop and tablet computers.

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