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New Age Super-Secure Smart Phones


Most of us are unaware that a different class of super-secure smart phones are out in the US market for the security paranoid ones. What makes these smart-phones so secure? Let’s find out!


With the shocking revelation of Edward Snowden that the US and UK government officials had snooped communications links of high value targets and  several unsuspecting citizens of foreign countries, suddenly the world has woken up to the privacy of individuals at the mercy of few government and Intelligence officials. One of Snowden’s revelation included how the ultra-secretive US-National Security Agency (US-NSA) had spied on the communication devices including the most popular smart-phones used by several persons around the world. It was reported that how huge data containing personal information were transmitted without any encryption technology in open cellular phone networks by the apps used in smart-phones. The media even reported how the Intelligence agencies were able to collect specific information of persons detailing a person’s marital status, religion, and other financial information from the third party apps being advertised in various smart-phone apps.

Probably, the factors leading to non-availability of highly secure smart-phones could be the reason why couple of US based companies began to design and market super-secretive smart-phones for the common people who wish to communicate freely with their near and dear ones without having to fear of anyone spying from US-NSA or CIA or for that matter hackers or malicious elements.

While the US smart-phone Industry has come-up super-secure smart-phones for the elite security conscious people who want the best security and privacy features on smart-phones and carrier, few of us in the Indian sub-continent are aware of it. This article focuses on the two security-oriented smart-phones ‘Blackphone’ and ‘FreedomPop’. So what is so special about the security and privacy features in these two phones? Let’s know more about them!



Known as ‘Blackphone’, it is a security and privacy oriented smart-phone being jointly developed by Spanish company ‘Geeksphone’ and US based mobile security firm ‘Silent Circle’ based on the operating system ‘PrivatOS’, a modified version of Android. The fact that ‘Silent Circle’ is founded by none other than Phil Zimmerman who is credited with the creation of popular data encryption and decryption program Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) makes it note-worthy. Another interesting twist with respect to ‘Silent Circle’ is that before the announcement of Blackphone, ‘Silent Circle’ along-with another company ‘Lavabit’ announced the closure of an up-coming secure encrypted email service known as ‘Dark Mail’. It was reported that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had used the services of ‘Dark Mail’ and consequently the US government officials had pressurized the head of ‘Lavabit’ to disclose the technical know-how of ‘Dark Mail’ services. Instead of disclosing the key information to the US Government, ‘Silent Circle’ and ‘Lavabit’ chose to close the ‘Dark Mail’ services. While some of you may wonder the relevance of Blackphone with the ‘Dark Mail’ encrypted email services, there is a direct connection between makers of Blackphone ‘Silent Circle’ and Edward Snowden. ‘Silent Circle’ markets the Blackphone based on the fact that Edward Snowden had also used one of its products which was secure and unbreakable by the mighty US-NSA experts.

Some of the security and privacy features of Blackphone are listed below

Secure Voice, Video & Text : The makers of Blackphone claim that its users can safely converse using voice only or video and also securely text messages with others without worrying about Intelligence officials or hackers eavesdropping on their conversation or text messages. The voice and video are encrypted using the features of ‘Silent Phone’ and the text messages are encrypted using ‘Silent Text’. Both these features are offered by Silent Circle.

Secure Search & Browsing : Blackphone insists that its users can safely browse through the Internet using the highly encrypted service that cannot be intercepted by Government officials or hackers. Blackphone uses the ‘Disconnect Secure Wireless mobile VPN client’ to anonymize all data for secure browsing and data traffic.

Remote Wipe & Protect : In case of accidents or phone loss, or data theft, Blackphone boasts of remotely wiping all the data in the phone from any part in the world.

Along with the standard security and privacy features, Blackphone also comes preloaded with a host of secure and privacy apps which includes Silent Circle suite of applications with Silent Contacts and secure cloud file storage from SpiderOak. All the above features are offered and services enabled for one year and the cost of Blackphone amounts to US $629 excluding tax.


FreedomPop – The Privacy Phone

FreedomPop is basically a smart-phone based security service provider specifically focused on security and privacy features. Known as the privacy phone, FreedomPop is designed to protect the privacy of its users from the malicious hackers and Intelligence agencies. As far as the device compatibility is concerned, FreedomPop supports Samsung Galaxy S2, S3, S4, Samsung Victory 4G LTE phones and Galaxy Tab 3 and HTC EVO 4G. FreedomPop also supports Sprint iPhones models 4, 4s and 5 through BYOD program. Here, the concept of FreedomPop’s BYOD is exactly not same as BYOD technology used in businesses for Enterprise security and Mobile Device Management (MDM).

Some of the security and privacy features offered by FreedomPop include secure VPN for anonymous browsing, encrypted voice for masking user identity. FreedomPop includes the poplar ‘Kaspersky ONE’ for online security to protect from viruses and other malware. In addition to using 128 bit encryption, FreedomPop prevents online marketing and tele-marketing from spamming and tracking your online credentials. On the cost factor, a pre-owned Samsung Galaxy S4 with all the privacy and security features from FreedomPop would cost around 499.99 US Dollars. The surprising factor here is that one can also purchase FreedomPop’s privacy phone or its security and privacy services using ‘Bitcoins’ and not reveal any buyer’s information to the seller.


Is Blackphone & FreedomPop Secure-Worthy?

Having discussed about the Blackphone and FreedomPop’s privacy phone, the million dollar question is whether these phones do really protect us from eavesdropping from the Intelligence agencies like US-NSA or CIA? Well, as far as the capabilities of US-NSA are concerned, they are known to intrude into any given systems in the world. For instance, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelation of how US-NSA had spied on the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a classic example of how US government agencies can eavesdrop on high value targets through mobile phone communications. Generally speaking, the US-NSA achieves their objectives either through their ‘in-house’ technical and research team. There have been instances where the US-NSA have purchased the technical know-how of companies by paying huge amount of (black) money and getting to know about the whole system.

Specifically speaking about the Blackphone and FreedomPop’s privacy phone security and privacy capabilities, both the phone maker companies have declared that their smart phones do not have absolute security. Having said that both the companies admit that no phone in the world is 100% secure! They further declare that their smart phones are not NSA-proof and provide an additional level of security and privacy that other smart-phone makers do not provide to the customers.


Bottom Line

Blackphone and FreedomPop’s ‘privacy phone’ are without any doubt interesting phones but again they come with its own disadvantages. When the smart-phone is purchased, the security and privacy featured apps on both these phones are initially included in the overall cost for the first year and then the users have to pay an annual fee for every consecutive year. Users cannot enjoy the vast number of apps available from the Android based app-store and hence they will have to be contended with the limited apps from the phone makers. One key drawback in both the highly secure smart-phones is that they are not compatible with the Industry standard of BYOD and MDM policy.

On the security and privacy account, both the secure smart-phones are relatively new in the US market and hence it would be too early to speculate on its acceptance among its customers.

Smart-phones are really a very personal device and hence it is imperative that we all should have a relative level of security and privacy features installed on our devices.

In case you thought there are no other secure smart-phones, then you will be surprised to know that the American aerospace company Boeing have been developing their own super-secretive phone known as ‘Boeing Black Smartphone’. But again Boeing’s Black smartphone is exclusively for US Defense and security communities. That’s for a different vertical!

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