Russian military officers with top secret security clearance are now being issued ultra-secure, cryptographically protected cellphones, Russia’s Izvestia newspaper has reported, citing the Defense Ministry.
The devices, known as the Atlas M-663S, cost about 115,000 rubles (about $2,050 US) and can work using ordinary civilian cellular networks, allowing officers to use them not only while deployed, but during drills and trips, including missions abroad.
Developed in Russia by the Moscow-based Atlas Scientific & Technical Center, the phones are put together by hand in tiny batches, with only about 100 made per year. These are distributed to commanders at the combined arms army and brigade level and above.
Created on the basis of the GSM SMP-Atlas/2, a phone available for civilian use which features cryptographic protection, the military-grade Atlas M-663S weighs 130 grams. In addition to its enhanced encryption module and special software, it features a reinforced case, a durable sapphire glass screen, shockproof rubberized cover, color display and an MP3 player. The phone operates in temperatures between —20 degrees Celsius and +50 degrees Celsius, and can operate normally after being immersed in water up to a meter deep for up to 30 minutes. Fitted with cryptographic protection of voice data, if the phone is lost, its encryption keys are deleted.
A SMP-ATLAS/2 cellphone, a design which the Atlas Scientific & Technical Center modified and upgraded for use by the military.
Speaking to Sputnik, Dr. Vitaly Vekhov, a specialist in the sphere of information security at the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, explained that this phone was a long time coming. Before it, he noted, the Russian military and security agencies have had to use ordinary, foreign-made dual sim phones, which couldn’t guarantee total security.
“The first SIM was responsible for connecting users to the network or operator, and the second to provide cryptographic protection of information in transmissions over open communication lines. Naturally, phones with foreign-made components could not be properly checked for the presence of possible bugs for intelligence purposes,” Vekhov said.
Now, he added, Russia finally has a phone with “our electronics, our assembly, our standards for data encryption and information security at the microprocessor component level.”