Posted: 12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 18, 2013
By Eric Markowitz
By making everything proprietary--from the network and servers to the fiber-optic cables--Silent Circle aims to keep your online communication private.
It's a good thing Mike Janke is a former Navy SEAL. He doesn't get intimidated easily.
When he and his co-founders conceived the idea for Silent Circle, a secure communication network, "A lot of people said we were frickin’ crazy for doing this," Janke says. "They said the telecoms or government would shut us down. But I knew we had to approach it like a special operation."
For businesses, the threat of hacking grows in tandem with the amount of communication that takes place digitally; the more you communicate in the cloud, the more you are exposed. By developing a proprietary network, Silent Circle makes texts, calls, videoconferences, and emails private and virtually hackproof.
Beside Janke, the Silent Circle team includes another former Navy SEAL and two of the world's leading cryptography experts--including Phil Zimmerman, the man who created PGP, the most widely used email encryption software on planet. And the start-up has already attracted an impressive roster of clients, including the governments of nine countries.
"The rules of how people communicate have changed so drastically that we can’t protect everything," Janke says. "This is the first commercial enterprise that’s totally secure."
Plenty of firms offer safeguards for consumers and businesses against the threat of hackers, but what makes Silent Circle so unique is its backend network. The company's "end-to-end" encryption system means that every time, say, you make a call using the Silent Circle app, your device generates an encryption key that randomly jumbles your data. It is unjumbled at the other end, even if the recipient does not use the Silent Circle app. As an added bonus, you can send texts or files that will self-destruct after a pre-determined period of time. It's like Snapchat--only for massive, incredibly sensitive files.
"For security to be revolutionized, you have to build your own network, your own software, your own code access--every piece," Janke says. So Silent Circle owns everything from the servers (which is unique for most security companies) to the fiber-optic cables, based in Canada, transmitting the data.
Of course, building a security company from the ground-up is no easy endeavor. But Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal and one of Inc.'s Audacious judges, said Silent Circle is taking the right approach by starting with what people really want--a way to prevent "bad guys, governments, whatever" from seeing sensitive data.
"The fact that [Silent Circle] is building something around what people intuitively want... I actually think that’s probably one of the few sustainable models [in this industry],” Levchin says. “The companies that can survive in this environment are ones that can create products for proactive security of communications or data.”
Customers, too, like the product.
"I was surprised at how easy it was to set up, navigate the features, and send files," writes one reviewer on iTunes. "I feel like a secret agent."