Everyone knows what “encrypted” means, but most computer and cell phone users don’t know how to encrypt their own data. Encryption sounds unattainable – it’s something that hackers deal with in Hollywood movies.
Encryption isn’t as difficult as you might think. The good news is that a lot of smart, tech-savvy privacy enthusiasts have already done most of the legwork for you; they’ve created some great apps to help you start protecting your data. For this post, we’re focusing on making encrypted phone calls, which should keep eavesdroppers out of your conversations.
It’s important to note that encryption needs to be end-to-end to be totally effective. End-to-end means that both callers in the conversation need to be using the encryption software. Think about it this way: you can’t play tennis with only one racquet. Similarly, you can’t be totally secure if only one person has an encryption app running.
Here are some of our top picks for making protected (encrypted) phone calls:
RedPhone: It’s free and open-source, which means that you can see what’s going on behind the scenes, code-wise. As stated above, both callers need to be using RedPhone to totally encrypt the call. What makes this app awesome is that it runs on WiFi or data, rather than cell service, which means that there’s no metadata for the carrier (ahem, Verizon!) to turn over to authorities.
Silent Phone: There is a subscription fee for this one, but it works on both iOs and Android. Subscribers get a 10-digit number that is used to interact with contacts, including non-Silent Phone users. Keep in mind that unless the receiver of the call is also using Silent Phone, the call will only be half-encrypted. [If you want to win a phone with the complete Silent OS, enter our Blackphone contest here! The company that produces this app has put out a great, secure new phone, and we’re giving it away.]
Ostel: Ostel requires you to create an account at Ostel.co. Based on which platform you use (Android, iOS, BlackBerry, or Nokia Windows), you will be prompted to download the proper app for your phone – some of which require paid memberships.
In the end, if someone’s really, really intent on listening in on your phone calls, you’ve probably got some bigger fish to fry. If the government or some spy agency wants your data, they will probably get it (sad, we know). That said, what we’re trying to do is help you take an active approach to protecting your data. You wouldn’t leave your credit card data out for prying eyes, and you shouldn’t let others snoop on your digital or wireless information.