‘Walkie-talkie’ app Zello defends security after Bahrain arrests


Oscar Williams-Grut
Tuesday 16 September 2014 15:31

The founder of smartphone walkie-talkie app Zello has defended its security credentials, after accusations that Bahraini officials exploited the app to arrest fifteen activists.

Human rights group Bahrain Watch has urged people to stop using the app to communicate after fifteen activists were arrested in Bahrain at the start of the month. The activists’ lawyers claim they have since disappeared.

Bahrain Watch has linked the arrests to Zello, an app which turns a smartphone into a two way walkie talkie. The app has become popular among activists in hot zones such as Ukraine, Venezuela and Bahrain. But Bahrain Watch claim its unencrypted nature leaves users vulnerable. The fifteen activists were allegedly lured to a false meeting by pro-Government agents using a chat ‘channel’ on Zello.

Bahrain Watch spokesperson Dr Ala’a Shehabi has called for Zello to state on its iTunes page that the app is unencrypted and to not promote it as used by activists.

But Bill Moore, co-founder and chief executive of Texas-based Zello, told the Independent: “The original report was activists in Bahrain had been arrested when an authority invited them to a meeting using Zello. No app can solve that problem.

“Zello is popular with protesters and many users because it can be used without any personal identification. All other popular messaging apps require confirmation of a phone number or email, Zello does not.”

“The consumer version of Zello is not encrypted which means with access to your network others can monitor conversations. Zello suggest concerned users setup a VPN, that is the best way prevent monitoring of their communication. We also plan to add encryption to our consumer service.”

Zello was founded in 2011 and has been downloaded over 51 million times.

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