Silent Circle, a Pentagon communications provider, is upping its vetting of subscribers after learning that ISIS is using its secure messaging app to evade surveillance. The app was voted most secure of the reportedly 21 chat apps used by the terror network in a cyber security report.
As well as apparently ISIS, Silent Circle products are used by 38 governments, including intelligence and customs and border patrol agencies which include the FBI and the U.S. National Security Service (NSA).
Mike Janke, co-founder of the Switzerland based company and a former Navy SEAL, says the revamp of user checks has been forced on the company after “we started to look and say, ‘Well, Christ, anybody could buy Silent Circle services, with a Russian stolen credit card and, really, the address of Penn Station. That’s not good stewardship.”
He says the aim of the user checks is to “stop terrorists from using stolen credit cards bought off the online black market, and entering bogus physical addresses to register for encryption services”.
Silent Circle is partnering with an online payment startup based in Ireland, called Stripe and a separate credit card processing software provider, he says. He is not releasing the name of the processing program for security reasons.
“There’s technology from the credit card companies now that will help you know your customer a little better – they can verify using big data that it’s a valid, not-stolen credit card… it knows if it’s on a stolen card list, on the Dark Web, if that’s a real address or a 7-Eleven or a bus station or a mosque,” says Janke.
The firm has previously admitted one percent of its clients abuse encryption. In 2013 Silent Circle found itself in the middle of an encryption debate just after ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked information about massive surveillance sweeps. To preempt any warrants for customer information from government security services, the firm closed down it Silent Mail email service
Janke says, “just as we thumb our nose at governments that call for back doors, we’re going to put our finger in the eye of ISIS. It’s important to us that we protect individual rights but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something to make it harder for the evil of the world to use our technology for ill.”