Twitter Scoops up Mobile Security Developer Whisper Systems

Twitter may be planning to boost its mobile security options with the acquisition of Whisper Systems, a company that offers security products for Android phones.

Whisper Systems' offerings include WhisperCore, software that enables full disk encryption as well as management tools for Android phones. It's free for individual users while enterprise customers pay for the software.

Other Whisper Systems products include text encryption, voice encryption, firewall software and encrypted backup.

In a blog post about the acquisition, Whisper Systems didn't say much about what Twitter might be planning to do with the technology. "Now that we're joining Twitter, we're looking forward to bringing our technology and our expertise into Twitter's products and services," the company wrote on the blog.

It said that Whisper Systems software will continue to be available but that during a transition period the company will take the products and services offline. In a forum on Whisper Systems' website, people who are apparently unaware of the acquisition are already wondering why they can't download products.

Twitter did not reply to a request for comment about its plans for the technologies.

WhisperCore has a number of features designed to make up for security shortcomings in Android. For instance, WhisperCore users can selectively revoke permissions that an app requests while allowing the user to still use the app.

The software also includes a feature aimed at thwarting someone who has stolen a phone from determining the phone's unlock code based on finger smudges on the screen. Some Android phones display rows of dots and a user unlocks the phone by dragging a finger over certain dots in a set pattern. An attacker might be able to recreate the pattern by examining finger smudges on the screen. WhisperCore displays unlock numbers in a column, so an attacker doesn't know in which order the user hits the numbers to unlock the phone.

Earlier this year Whisper Systems released a software development kit so that developers could start building some WhisperCore features into their applications.

Few other companies are doing full disk encryption for Android, although there are many other companies taking other approaches to securing Android phones. Companies like 3LM and Good Technology offer mobile security services for enterprises. In addition, mobile device management products from companies including Sybase, BoxTone, Zenprise, Mobile Iron and Fiberlink let IT managers set basic policies like password requirement and remote wipe, and offer additional security capabilities.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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