CyanogenMod adds encrypted messaging to help beat the NSA

by: Gary SimsJune 27, 2013

CyanogenModIn light of the recent surveillance scandals that have hit the USA and to some extent the UK, the key developers for the CyanogenMod project have been adding some new privacy features to the alternative Android firmware. First, the Run in Incognito Mode, which limits as apps access to your personal data at a system level, has now been integrated into the nightly builds under its new name of Privacy Guard. Even more interestingly, Koushik Dutta has started to integrate a secure (encrypted) messaging service for devices running CM.

The philosophy behind the new  PushSms app/plugin, which is still under heavy development, is that the encryption should be handled in the background without the user needing to worry about how it works. The idea is that all messages exchanged between two CyanogenMod devices will be encrypted end to end and sent over Google Cloud Messaging. Since the encryption is build into the bowls of CyanogenMod, it works transparently, even with third party apps. Dutta has done some extensive testing with apps like GoSMS to check that the encryption happens for all messages, regardless of how they are sent.

This new privacy feature in CyanogenMod works because of some clever changes in the telephony framework. Now SMS messages can now be intercepted, encrypted and then sent via the Google Cloud Messaging service if needed.

According to Dutta, this is how Apple’s iMessage works and it is reckoned that governments aren’t able to spy on iMessage traffic. The use of encryption over iMessage is transparent as iOS encrypts the messages automatically when they are sent between two Apple users. SMS is only used when needed.

What do you think? Clearly the CyanogenMod changes are brilliant, but shouldn’t Google be doing something like this in stock Android?

  • MasterMuffin

    I’d like this to be a feature of Android, because I know only 1 guy with a custom ROM and he has MIUI… I don’t live in ‘murica so no NSA here but it would still be a nice touch


      Eric Schmidt is on Obama’s advisory board. I don’t think Google will be doing anything on purpose to undermine the Mighty Leviathan of the Federal government.

    • mobilemann

      come to think of it, i only know one dude who put’s custom ROM’s on his phone too. That’s nuts.

  • Random

    Good initiative CM!
    The problem if Google be’d doing this is that NSA would get it backdoored almost immediately. Apples iMessage is probably not safe at all and it’s proved that they’ve cooperated with NSA since at least 6 months back.

    • mobilemann

      i guess you don’t understand how imessage works, and you just dislike apple because you own a android phone (which is fucking stupid). Apple doesn’t know what it’s users are saying, and they’ve released public statements saying they told the government it was impossible to get the data.

    • MasterMuffin

      “iMessage is PROBABLY not safe at all” aka you don’t know anything about it but you hate Apple (which I understand) so their iMessage’s security must not be true. iMessage is encrypted so that really nobody can read the messages other than the receiver. Here’s one article you should read

      • bll

        Can’t trust company statements!
        So if it really matters assume isn’t confidential.

      • Han Cnx

        And you’ve inspected their source code and systems I presume. Yet you’re assuming that everyone not taking a huge US based corporation’s statement at face value must imply hate for that corporation. ;) Trust is something different from love/hate. I can love Apple, without trusting everything they say. It’s different from marriage and religion in that way.

  • Swifty

    Muffin, the NSA are spying on you too, don’t worry about that.
    I can’t see google implementing this into stock. Well at least not without providing a back door…

  • Yama

    Or this could be a more nsacontrolled concentrated feature for those who wanted to hide

    Rio English btw

  • Jorge Fernandes

    This CM folks deserve a big statue! What an awesome work for the past years, kudos!

  • I’m hoping Google is watching CyanogenMod the same way Apple watches the jailbreak community, then adds ‘features’ based on popular JB apps…

    • bll

      Google has always watched Cyanogenmod closely and implemented features introduced into cyanogenmod first!
      Whats more likely to happen is, Google imposes limit’s on GCM or shuts it off completely or uses it as a threat like the project cornerstone fiasco.

  • ronan

    encrypting message is good but if the storage itself isn’t hardware-encrypted then it’s pretty useless..

  • Cerberus_tm

    Uhh if Google were to implement this, the American government could spy on your by simply getting the data from Google, as they do through PRISM and the rubber-stamped FISA orders. No, I trust CM a lot more.

  • bll

    Hey at least add the post from Dutta himself(as a link),

    Kudos on the poor quality writing!

  • TrevorMadden

    They should definitely integrate this into the stock Android experience!

  • Irritated guy

    The one thing that people tend not to realize is the same “shield” that is protecting your not very important thing under the name of “privacy” is also helping the terrorist protect their “important” stuff that can be used to hurt you. What am irony huh?
    And all these ranting about “privacy” and “stronger civilian encryption methods against government snooping” is also being utilized by terrorists to avoid detection and ultimately the same people who ranted and asked for stronger encryption gets hurt by these people and they in turn complain the government is not doing a better job of preventing it.
    See the sarcasm behind all these??
    You think your government is interested in individual who is supposed to be innocent like u when they should be doing other jobs??
    And the reason the reason your government is called a “government” is caused they are they to govern. and to govern you need to know. How do you govern if you don’t know a thing of what is going on with your people???
    Wake up, narcissist people.

    • Ceo RappitupWireless

      Dead wrong!!

  • JJ

    Well hope CM is not just another front for the global monster NSA
    Apple iOS owned check the link