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Military-grade security in an app

By Stefania Seccia



Battlefield strength security used by soldiers halfway across the world could be found in one smartphone app — all developed by cyber-security leaders out of Oxford University.

That’s what new tech start-up OxCEPT is trying to do while opening up an office in Vancouver.

Perry Anderson, CEO and co-founder of OxCEPT, is working on opening a new office in the city around the same time of launching an instant messaging app — think Whats App — with military-grade security called Scrambl.

The company is already based in London, England and Silicon Valley, but Anderson said he made the push for its third office to open up in Vancouver, his hometown.

“I’m a Vancouver boy, I went and did my MBA at Oxford,” he said. “While there I acquired some technology developed out of Oxford University built specifically for the UK Military of Defence.

“I really think Vancouver is becoming a tech hotbed, it’s emerging as far as that goes. We’ll be upping the developer head count here.”

OxCEPT is hoping to open up its new office in the city before the end of 2015, which may coincide with the commercial release of Scrambl.

“The app is working, we’ve got a whopping couple hundred people using it right now,” he said. “We haven’t done the full marketing push yet, we’re getting feedback, revising a few tweaks but we’ll push it out to the marketplace in the next month or so.”

While the app will be free for the public market, OxCept is first going after enterprises or any company that has security issues they need for internal communications — such as financial institutions, oil and gas companies, and banks with critical data.

But how did the “Vancouver boy” come to possess military technology to turn into a mobile messaging app?

Anderson said the UK military had approached Oxford University computer science professor Bill Roscoe — a world-renowned author on cyber-security — eight years ago to build secure communications technology for its troops.

The U.S. navy kicked in a $1 million and the UK military pitched £100,000 to get the project off the ground. When Anderson met Roscoe, he said with the patents in place and the unending tide of security breaches “the world is missing this.” Roscoe sits on OxCEPT’s board.

“The reach is endless,” he said. “The OxCEPT ethos is about privacy and I think everybody has a constitutional right to close their curtains and walk around naked. We want people to feel private and that’s what’s unique about our system.”

Scrambl doesn’t store messages on a database as other instant messaging apps do, so the messages being sent can never be read by them; all messages are encrypted and decrypted, and the big focus is on authentication.