Blackphone – a secure mobile phone from Mobile World Congress

Blackphone: the secure and encrypted mobile phoneBlackphone: the secure and encrypted mobile phone

How many of us can say that we have a secure mobile phone? Not many I bet so I set out to look one.

The one thing that Mobile World Congress is not short of is companies that build mobile phones. From the high end brand name to company names I can’t pronounce let alone knew they existed. As I wondered the various halls, I saw a company that that also makes a phone. However, what caught my eye was the fact that they make only one phone which is unashamedly priced at  $629.

The Blackphone secure mobile phone

The company is a joint venture between GeeksPhone and Silent Circle and its product is Blackphone which has one underlying mission: keeping your personal information secure.

Whilst the Blackphone runs on Android, it has its own customised operating system called PrivateOS as well as a collection of various security apps and services that are built into the phone.

Mike Kershaw, Chief Architect of Blackphone, explained that “Blackphone offers security and privacy of information to executives, public figures and anyone unwilling to to cede ownership of their privacy”

So what makes Blackphone so secure ?

Blackphone’s custom build operating system runs the Security Centre which take control of the permissions that apps require. The tool lets the phone user fully understand what an installed app is able to to so that the user can choose to allow that or not. This is a critical component as typically we blindly install apps from the Play Store and simple accept the default permissions that the developer has set which often includes items like access to your location, phone information and even emails and SMS.

Blackphone has also replaced the standard Wi-Fi manager with a secure wireless manager that ensures data is secure even when using open networks.

Included in the phone’s price are bundled services valued at $1508 which the user is given access to at no additional cost. These services include:

  • Two years of Silent Circle, valued at $240. Silent Circle is an encrypted communications firm providing secure multiplatform communication services for mobile devices, desktop and email. The company was founded by Mike Janke,founder & former CEO of SOC. (and an ex Navy SEAL) and Phil Zimmermann the creator of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) who are part of the Blackphone initiative.
  • 3x one-year “Friends and Family” subscriptions valued at $360 allowing you to call 3 people in an encrypted way who are not on the Silent Circle network.
  • Two years of the Disconnect which is a VPN service valued at $120 with transfer size of 1GB per month.
  • Two years of Spideroak  valued at $120. Spideroak is a cloud encrypted data backup, share, sync, access and storage service.
  • International power adapter kit valued at $39. A charger is included to prevent an attack vector for a hacker to embed code in a borrowed charger and steal information off the device whilst it is charging. [quick Google search reveals how this is done]

When asked about the possibility of the phone becoming the tool for “bad guys” to circumvent law enforcement, Mike replied that the agencies such as the NSA get still get access to your data and the device itself is to built to protect your personal information which sits behind real protection and not hide behind pretend-security that biometrics such as finger print scanners that some phone manufacturers have made fashionable.

 

Blackphone’s hardware specs are:

  • HSPA+ & LTE
  • 2 GHZ quad-core CPU
  • 4.7-inch HD IPS screen
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • 16GB of storage
  • 8-megapixel camera
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi
  • GPS

For more information head over to the Blackphone website

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