Yachting hacker builds free encryption for Egyptian smartphones

High-profile privacy advocate, hacker, encrypts VoIP, text

Cellphone secuirty company Whisper Systems is getting ready to release a free version of two applications designed to make it harder for authorities to listen in on conversations such as those in which protesters organized the peaceful overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Cellphones and social networks used by protesters carrying smartphones played critical roles in the protests, especially after the Egyptian government shut off Internet access in the hope of quashing resistance.

The company is working on Egypt-specific versions of its RedPhone, which encrypts voice packets before they're sent across VoIP connections, and TextSecure, which does the same for texts.

The tiny, semi-anonymous company released versions developed by a researcher who goes by the name Moxie Marlinspike -- who describes himself as a hacker who is also a Master Mariner who delivers yachts worldwide. He developed the encryption software partly to protect his own data and calls while travelling overseas.

The software works with phones for any Egyptian carrier, though only on Android, which makes up about 3 percent of the Egyptian market.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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