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Chancellor’s Office still wired for Sound?

The office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now encrypted – the right way. The new “Merkel Phone” can allegedly do it all – especially screening out unwanted listeners. Security experts from the Secusmart company will be on hand at CeBIT 2015 in Hannover to explain just how.

20 Mar. 2015
Image source: Secusmart GmbH/Jörg Hemmen

Proceedings against the NSA have been dropped. Due to an ostensible lack of evidence, German Attorney General Harald Range has announced a halt to the legal proceedings, explaining it was necessary to take German-U.S. relations into account. And this, despite the numerous media claims that American surveillance had even gone so far as to wiretap the Chancellor’s cellphone. “Simply hot air”, replies the Office of the Attorney General. And yet it remains unclear just how secure German state secrets remain on the smartphones employed by its government. These devices are now allegedly “unhackable”, and a Düsseldorf-based firm has taken up the challenge of making sure this is the case.

149 billion euros per annum for encryption

Angela Merkel phones, texts and works using a Blackberry Q10 equipped with SecuSUITE for BlackBerry 10 – a product developed by the Düsseldorf-based Secusmart company. This high-security smartphone costs 2,500 euros, and the German government has ordered more than 3,000 of the devices since 2013 – an order volume totaling several million euros. The Secusmart solution fits onto a single micro-SD card and encrypts both voice and data, right down to calendar entries, via AES 128-bit encryption – a system which offers 340 sextillion keys. “Even using special computers, the current state of the art would theoretically require 149 trillion years to crack the code,” explains Secusmart General Manager Hans-Christoph Quelle. What’s more, the system is especially user-friendly, requiring just a few simple steps to switch to secure mode.

Strict separation between professional and private information

The German Chancellor’s Office differentiates strictly between work and pleasure. Angela Merkel no longer needs to use several different cellphones for different purposes, as the new technology fits neatly onto a single smartphone. The SIM card is divided between a private and a work zone, with the work zone receiving the lion’s share of the encryption software. Strict rules laid down by the German Office of IT Security dictate which apps are allowed. The Chancellor can conduct private conversations or surf Facebook on the one hand, then simply push a button to enter the highly secure, professional zone on the other. This is a convenient solution which is potentially of great interest even for non-government users.

"Our encrypted micro-SD card is available to anyone,"

explains Quelle, "whether it involves the head of a company, a journalist or a private user. Anyone who wants to protect their smartphone from outside attacks can order this encryption technology without further ado."

To find out the latest about the Chancellor’s cellphone, Secusmart and private-cum-professional encryption, visit CeBIT 2015. You’ll find the Secusmart booth in Hall 6, stand no. J16.