The 'snoop-proof' Blackphone starts shipping today

Mobile & tablets

by Ben Sullivan| 30 June 2014

But security experts warn it's not as safe as it claims.

The Blackphone, a privacy-orientated Android smartphone made in a joint venture between Silent Circle and Geeksphone, has started shipping to the device's first pre-order customers today.

SGP Technologies, the name of the venture, formally launched Blackphone earlier this year at Mobile World Congress (MWC). It promises integrated features for private communications, browsing, and cloud storage.

Toby Weir-Jones, CEO of SGP Technologies, said: "We are excited to achieve this key milestone on schedule and ship a remarkable device to customers that is the result of an unprecedented combination of privacy and mobile innovations and visionaries.

"Blackphone's arrival puts mobile privacy directly in the hands of professionals and consumers everywhere. In a world where devices and apps increasingly offer features only in return for users' personal or sensitive information, the pent-up demand for Blackphone shows there is strong, international demand for our brand's devices and services that stand apart by placing privacy before all else."

The phone uses a security-enhanced version of Android 4.4 KitKat, called PrivatOS.

However, some security experts have warned that the phone is not as secure as it makes out to be.

KPMG Information Protection and Business Resilience team partner, Stephen Bonner, said that privacy should not be limited to only few handsets for individuals who have something to hide; privacy should be default for all.

"The ability to keep data safe and secure without having to think about it should feature in all devices so that all calls, messages, files and browsing data is kept private," Bonner said.

"By owning a Blackphone a user could become a target as it acts as a red flag to criminals, highlighting that there's something to hide.

"As the devices attract and house high value data, attackers will be inclined to break in. Some of the threats these type of products aim to protect against aren't realistic for most users."

"They might be a cool gadget for wannabe James Bonds but business users need to worry a lot more about the applications on their device and the end-to-end protections they have in place."

Blackphone features private encrypted voice and video calls and text messaging with attachments via Silent Circle's, Silent Phone and Silent Text apps created by Phil Zimmermann and Jon Callas, claiming to give users the freedom to communicate securely anywhere they find cellular or Wi-Fi connections.

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