Android App Review: Gryphn Secure Mobile Messaging

One of the things I don’t worry about too much about with my phone is text message security. Really, it’s too difficult to control how or who uses the text messages. In a smaller or solo firm, the need for secure text messaging between parties is almost non-existent. Occasionally though, there are times I would like to send secure texts to Mrs. The Droid Lawyer or coworkers. I could certainly envision a well-built, text message security app for larger firms and enterprise environments. Granted, not everyone wants encryption, but for some particular instances, encrypted texts could serve a great purpose.

I’ve discussed secure text messaging before, but I had concerns with the viability of the app, and my interest faded.

Recently, the folks at Gryphn Mobile Security reached out for my assistance in answering questions about Android usage for lawyers, and introduced me to their app, Gryphn Secure Mobile Messaging.

This free app “defends and secures all of your texts messages,” giving you “control over what your text message does after it leaves your phone.” Unfortunately, the app is so secure, I could not take any screenshots to show what the app actually does. You’ll just have to take my word for it or watch this video:

Unfortunately, you’re probably still confused as to what exactly the app does.

Basically, the app acts as an SMS client on your phone, importing your current messaging into the Gryphn app database. Then, when you want to send a text message to someone, you load Gryphn (like your default messaging app) and decide whether the message needs encryption, or whether it’s a standard message. If you want encryption, there’s a small button to click to turn on encryption. Type the message as you normally would, add attachments, click send. Perfectly simple. The receiver uses the same app to decrypt the message.

Gryphn Secure Messaging

The app worked brilliantly for me, but not so much for a colleague. He’s on T-Mobile and something with the T-Mobile service interfers with the encryption. I could see all of his text messages, but he only say “no subject” with each message. I tested the app with Mrs. The Droid Lawyer’s phone (Verizon) and my assistant’s (AT&T), and both worked fine. One of Gryphn’s employees (Verizon) also chatted a bit with me via the secure message connection.

More in-depth, Gryphn explains that “the encryption/decryption is all done locally on the device, and the patented key exchange method is just facilitated by [Gryphn’s] servers, not stored or saved there (a la BBM or iMessage). What this means is that no messages pass through [Gryphn’s] servers and [Gryphn doesn’t] have the ability to decrypt anyone’s messages, even if served with a subpoena.” Gryphn is also building an auditing platform that would securely back up messages sent between devices licensed within the same company or organization, a feature required in many regulated industries. Ultimately, Gryphn wants to deploy the app for enterprise scenarios where there’s a strong duty to keep records.

One of my chief concerns was the ability to transact illegal activities outside of the purview of regulators (i.e. using the 15 second “self-destruct” feature) – as if that never happens. Gryphn pointed me to their blog that features a post discussing the topic. I can see this a sa very beneficial feature for parents dealing with issues of sexting.

There are a couple of problems, quirks really, that I found with the app.

First, because of the secure nature of the app, you’re occasionally required to log in to the app using your password. I mistakenly (in a good way) set the app to lock every time my lock screen appeared. If you’re using this app for a lot of texting, having to enter a password every time you lock your phone gets very annoying.

Secondly, as I already mentioned, the app didn’t work with some wireless carriers. This defeats the purpose of sending a secure message, or at least makes for a very short conversation.

Finally, I found that some of the pictures became far too compressed to be useful. While this is good in some sense, sometimes, simply viewing the picture became tedious.

Overall, none of these concerns effect my praise for this app. I believe sending secure messages to clients will benefit everyone, and help to fulfill the requirements of Model Rule 1.6. I give this new app 4 of 5 stars.

Update (02/09/13): Substituted the showcase video for one created by Gryphn. 

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.