Secure mobile messaging and applications provider CellTrust introduced an enterprise appliance that enables encrypted SMS messages from handset to handset, application to handset or vice versa. That means public-safety agencies, federal government entities, health-care groups and banks now can use text messaging in a secure way.

Text messaging has evolved over the years to become a vital public-safety tool, and many companies have launched technology that offers two-way text dialog from any PC to any mobile device, regardless of wireless technology, carrier or device types. Public-safety and government agencies are using these systems as a valuable adjunct to their primary communications systems.

"Text messaging is not secure," said Sean Moshir, CEO and chairman of CellTrust. Standard SMS can be intercepted along the transmission path at multiple locations — SMS aggregators, operators, infrastructure providers or tower operators — especially when the Internet is transmitting the messages, he said.

As such, using standard SMS to convey critical and sensitive information violates compliance laws in the health-care and financial industries, for instance, because information is not guaranteed to be kept private and delivered only to the intended recipient.

While CellTrust has offered a secure SMS service on a hosted basis, it is now offering what it calls a plug-and-play solution that includes its SecureSMS Gateway and a modem from Multi-Tech, a cellular modem manufacturer. Known as the CellTrust SecureSMS Appliance, the solution offers a direct connection to mobile operators via cell towers and enables the ability to send sensitive material via SMS. The solution also enables delivery confirmation, the ability to create a "paper trail" for documentation, and remote wipe if the device is ever lost or stolen.

Moshir said the company already has gained traction in the government sector within intelligence agencies. For law enforcement, secure SMS could bring a higher level of comfort associated with querying for sensitive information such as arrest records.

The solution requires no Internet connection and is installed at the company’s or agency's data center, enabling users to send text messages securely using cell towers. Moreover, users can send encrypted messages containing up to 5,000 characters, far exceeding the standard SMS 160-character limit. The modems in the system can transmit as many as 10,000 messages per day.

Moshir said the requests for the product are running the gamut, including inquiries from parents wanting to know what their children are texting.