For the security conscious, the Mobile World Congress just got interesting. Today saw the introduction of the Blackphone, a pro-privacy handset being developed between U.S. security company Silent Circle and Spanish startup Geeksphone. The phone featares a “security-oriented” Android build called PrivatOS.
What is PrivatOS?
“We modified some default behaviors of Android and some security flaws that we found and we call that PrivatOS. It’s just small modifications of the Android core,” said Geeksphone founder and CEO Javier Agüera, demoing the device to TechCrunch.
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“For example the default crypto engines — there’s a list of crypto engines that the system by default uses… and in the first version of Android the first option was good enough, then they changed it for something that is terrible. So we reverted that to what it was before.”
“PrivatOS is 100% compatible. It doesn’t create any fragmentation at all,” he added. ”Also we made performance improvements.”
There are a number of security related features that include, to name a few, anonymous search, automatic disabling of non-trusted WiFi hotspots, and private texting, calling and file transfer capabilities.
The price of security
The Blackphone is scheduled to begin shipping in June with a hefty $629 price tag. But what price to pay for total security? Also tempering this price tag is a subscription-free $700 worth of bundled applications. These include Silent Circle’s own application suite, including three subscriptions to give away to friends and family, Spideroak encrypted data backup with 2GB of free storage each month, and 1GB per month of free Disconnect storage.
“Disconnect is a very interesting because, as it’s integrated deep inside you device, it can anonymize all your Wi-Fi browsing and it actually secures the Wi-Fi connection,” noted Agüera, demoing the app running on Blackphone.
Geeksphone has already begun to take pre-orders website, and has negotiated its first carrier partnership with the Dutch mobile operator KPN, which makes a good deal of sense given the outrage in the Netherlands following revelations gleaned by the Snowden leaks.
PrivatOS promises direct, and frequent updates from Blackphone without the potential for a carrier backlog.
“This is one of the most important features because if we discover something we will fix it right away,” said Agüera.
The security aspects of the Blackphone are too numerous to detail here but TechCrunch does a brilliant job of breaking them down here.
No phone is NSA-proof but for those that concerned with privacy, well you shouldn’t be using a smartphone at all. But for those who must, Blackphone may be the way to go.
“Blackphone is meant for people from all walks of life who are concerned with privacy,” said Agüera. “It can be very expert people but it can be not so expert people. It can be normal users from the street, or politicians or whatever.”