Revolutionizing Secure Communications: The Impact of ARMA G1 Mark ll in Ukraine and Beyond

Following several significant events in the field of privacy, like the NSA’s PRISM program, leaked by Edward Snowden, the Crypto AG incident, and the Pegasus scandal, it becomes more apparent that the security of communications is detrimental to worldwide security. In its quest to revolutionize secure messaging, ARMA Instruments sets a new bar for the technology with its ARMA G1 Mark II hardware solution.

ARMA G1 MII at Antonov | Credit: Tijn Benedek via ARMA Instruments AG

For a joint project with ARMA Instruments, AIN.Capital talked with the company’s co-founder and CEO, Pim Donkers, to figure out why communications security is so important right now and discussed how ARMA G1 Mark II can help change the face of modern warfare in Ukraine.

The publication was prepared in partnership with ARMA
What does it mean?

About ARMA Instruments

ARMA Instruments was founded in 2017 by Pim Donkers, Alex Smirnoff, and Andrey Loginov in response to significant events in the field of privacy and out of skepticism against existing secure communications solutions. ARMA, or Advanced Relay Mission Applications, swiftly grew into an international company with EU, US, Switzerland, and Ukraine offices.

ARMA develops and manufactures secure communications and data solutions. Its first product, the ARMA G1 Secure Communicator, is the company’s business card to the industry, which allows communications beyond what you could classify as TOP SECRET.

What is the ARMA G1 Secure Communicator?

The ARMA G1 is a mobile device for person-to-person communications designed for absolute security resistant to even future quantum computer brute force attacks.

ARMA G1 MII turntable image| Credit: NPK via ARMA Instruments AG

In comparison to popular software solutions that provide “similar” secure messenger services, like Signal or Whatsapp, ARMA delivers far more than just the software. The company designed a secure operating system and mobile hardware platform entirely from scratch. 

“You could say ARMA G1 is a hardware-dedicated messenger.”

Additionally, the solution may serve as a base platform that can be expanded to fit any need, from file sharing and internet browsing to remotely controlling minefields. According to the company, even the first US-based power plant organizations started relying on the ARMA G1 as a fallback system in case of a significant cyberattack.

It is more secure to communicate with the G1 than directly between two people in person. You can eavesdrop on people’s live conversations in more ways than you think. Furthermore, where “security by obscurity” was mainstream in the industry for years, we offer complete transparency and design systems that, for some significant parts, don’t need your trust since we leave them out, such as message servers. What is not there cannot be attacked by the enemy. This serverless approach is revolutionary. Furthermore, we keep the code base clean and easily verifiable.

Pim Donkers, CEO and co-founder at ARMA Instruments

What benefits does a separate device provide when compared to widely used apps that claim to offer a similar encrypted messaging experience, for example, Signal?

 “For starters, Signal and other messaging apps are offered for free. Where do you think they get paid from? A rule of thumb is that if you do not pay for the product, you are the product. For your understanding, WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook in 2014 for a whopping $19 billion! But regardless of any security claims these products make, they only “secure” the software level. These apps have no control over the mobile phone they are hosted on (iPhone, Samsung, Google Pixel, etc) or the operating system. You need to secure all three levels. What use is Signal if your keystrokes and thus passwords are leaked to the Russians by other means?”, Donkers comments. 

G1 is not a typical consumer device. It is a security weapon

Zaporizhzhia nuclear powerplant | Credit: AFP via CNN

Donkers continues, “If I wanted to sabotage, say, a power plant. The most sensible thing to do would be to track down those who have access to it and compromise them. Protecting location data is for many persons-of-interest detrimental”.

This location protection is particularly detrimental to military personnel’s safety. For example, in Ukraine, many servicemen still use Signal or Telegram on consumer smartphones, which poses a high risk of becoming a direct target to the enemy. “ARMA G1 prevents targeted cyber attacks and physical attacks on its user. Just the phone number of any smartphone is enough to find it, including its owner, anywhere on the planet. Our patented Dynamic Identity feature changes the device’s complete cellular network identity regularly; furthermore, our clients, in all cases, remain fully anonymous, even to us. We were surprised that no one ever thought about this, given that companies such as Apple and Google spend billions on research but leave the obvious untouched”, Donkers comments.

ARMA G1 provides security on all three layers:

  • Hardware;
  • Operation system;
  • Application level.

ARMA also introduces other security features, such as hardware anti-tampering and self-destruct, in case the device gets into the wrong hands. This significantly reduces the chances of compromising the location of critical military objects and people. Also, due to the “Trust No One” approach, no third-party components or code is trusted. For the same reason, the company abandoned the security-by-obscurity approach.

“Enough examples show that companies offering a black-box solution cannot be trusted. A great example was Crypto AG, a Swiss company selling cryptographic equipment to its allies for decades. It was only recently exposed as a CIA-owned operation. Companies like that screwed up the industry, and at this point, if you can not disclose to your stakeholders what you are doing, you should not be trusted,” Pim Donkers says.

How to message through ARMA G1?

ARMA G1 MII beta testing at sea | Credit: Tijn Benedek via ARMA Instruments AG

Working with ARMA G1 doesn’t require any changes in your existing infrastructure:

  • After purchasing an X amount of ARMA G1s, you will receive random codes to activate them at the device startup.
  • You then press “add contact” in the UI, where you can either create or enter a code. 

The created short-lived code will be entered on the other device, and the devices will handshake using the TOR network. The codes may be shared in person or via unsecured channels like your iPhone.

  • You can then send messages, which will be encrypted on the device using well-established encryption algorithms and directly transmitted to the other device using random TOR servers around the globe, with each step erasing its previous tracks.

“Although TOR has its encryption, we do not rely on it. For us, it’s a way to wash out any metadata and avoid using centralized servers. So, since we do not use message servers at all and use TOR servers for transport, we call it “serverless” messaging,” Pim Donkers explains.

  • Furthermore, the G1 base platform may be expanded with additional features that tailor our client’s needs. 

ARMA G1 is available in Ukraine

ARMA has centered much of its development in Ukraine. Thus, ARMA G1 is, in a way, a Ukrainian product. The relationship with Ukraine started before the full-scale war, returning to 2017. When the war began, the company remained loyal and fully supported its team in Ukraine.

On October 24, 2023, ARMA Instruments introduced the ARMA G1 Mark II in Kyiv, launching the device in the Ukrainian market. According to the company, Ukraine is pivotal in fostering innovation amidst geopolitical turmoil.

For 2024, ARMA decided to increase investment in Ukraine and establish a local subsidiary to develop and manufacture locally to support a national Ukrainian defense industry and get a competitive edge against Russia regarding secure communications.

Does ARMA G1 have a global impact?

“You are probably familiar with the proverb “Knowledge is power,” meaning knowledge gives one the ability to conquer the world. That implies that leaking sensitive data to your enemy is, in effect, transferring power. Our solution would benefit the defense forces of any nation that still dares to exchange files and discuss strategy with consumer devices such as iPhones and Google phones, which is still common practice in Ukraine. In all cases, the business model of a smartphone manufacturer heavily leans on selling consumer data, and the device’s design philosophy was and will always remain centered around that business model,” Pim Donkers says.

How will this protect against the current influx of advanced Russian offensive malware? ARMA’s business model is the security of our clients. We protect anything from discussing strategy, troop positions, equipment movements, etc. The platform could also serve as a secure terminal in Operational Technology to access military equipment such as a minefield, nuclear power plants, etc. ARMA G1 offers a secure base platform that will stop leaks of power, which directly helps to win the war and save lives.

Slava Ukraini!

Pim Donkers, CEO and co-founder at ARMA Instruments

TEXT Rostyslav Sobachynskyi

PHOTO ARMA, Tijn Benedek

PRODUCER Nadia Mykolaenko

MANAGER Iryna Nasylnieva