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Encrypted satellite phones avoid prying ears

Cairns-based counter-surveillance and encrypted telephony outfit ESD Group has begun shipping encryption-capable satellite telephones that work anywhere in Australia.
Written by Patrick Gray, Contributor
ESD Group products

Credit: ESD Group

Cairns-based counter-surveillance and encrypted telephony outfit ESD Group has begun shipping encryption-capable satellite telephones that work anywhere in Australia.

ESD Group director Les Goldsmith told ZDNet.com.au that GSM calls can easily be intercepted and in some countries mobile handsets are taken off-air if users attempt to scramble calls relayed over standard mobile networks.

"There are some governments who don't like people using encrypted phones," Goldsmith said.

"If they know that they're using encrypted technology they'll block the phone from transmitting, they take away the ability of the phone to make GSM calls," he said.

Satellite phones are immune from this interference.

The new devices operate over the Thuraya satellite phone network, which recently expanded its coverage area to include the Asia Pacific region with the launch of its Thuraya-3 satellite.

"There are efforts to stop [call interceptions]. It's completely forbidden," said Goldsmith, who claims the new satellite handsets are being used by executives who want to ensure their calls are not being monitored.

"[Executives] are particularly concerned about economic espionage where a government is favouring a local company or has a vested interest in a contract going a certain way," said Goldsmith.

But there are threats present on our own shores, too, Goldsmith said. He claims an increasing number of Australian companies are having their offices bugged and telephone calls intercepted.

"The problem that we have in Australia is we have individuals who want to make money... the fast way and cheat," he said.

Corporate espionage conducted with listening devices and telephone surveillance is a legitimate threat, Goldsmith insisted, but rarely gets reported.

"Most corporate entities do not want to announce to shareholders or the public that they've been victims of surveillance in the first place and if they can hide it they will," said Goldsmith.

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