Blackphone: The pro-privacy Android smartphone that will enable encrypted communications

Malware

by Ben Sullivan| 16 January 2014

Smartphone being built with support from Silent Circle aims to be NSA-proof.

A company called Blackphone is set to release a new smartphone that has been designed to allow secure, encrypted communications and secure file-sharing.

The joint venture between Silent Circle, which provided an encrypted email service until it was shut down last year and Spanish mobile startup Geeksphone, is an active retaliation to the ongoing NSA snooping of the open web and mobile communications.

Based in Switzerland, the pair plans to collaborate on a number of devices, with the Android-powered namesake device Blackphone to be its first product.

"Blackphone is the world's first smartphone which prioritises the user's privacy and control, without any hooks to carriers or vendors. It comes preinstalled with all the tools you need to move throughout the world, conduct business, and stay in touch, while shielding you from prying eyes."

The project also involves the creator of encrypted communications program Pretty Good Privacy, Phil Zimmermann.

"I have spent my whole career working towards the launch of secure telephony products," he says in a press release on the Blackphone website.

"Blackphone provides users with everything they need to ensure privacy and control of their communications, along with all the other high-end smartphone features they have come to expect."

The website goes on to say that: "It has the features necessary to do all the things you need, as well as all the things you want, while maintaining your privacy and security and giving you the freedom to choose your carrier, your apps, and your location.

"The tools installed on Blackphone give you everything you need to take ownership of your mobile presence and digital footprints, and ensure nobody else can watch you without your knowledge.

"You can make and receive secure phone calls; exchange secure texts; exchange and store secure files; have secure video chat; browse privately; and anonymize your activity through a VPN."

However, to use the encrypted services provided, Blackphone needs to be communicating with another encryption-enabled device, so the level of privacy all depends on who the user communicates with. If the user sends an email to an email client that does not support encryption, the service becomes nullified and acts like any other email service.

The makers are hoping that with the increased interest in security and privacy, though, that more and more consumers will be looking to secure their communications, and the use of encryption-enabled devices rise rapidly.

Earlier this week, Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich announced his firm's plans to use the Firefox browser's open-source functionality to get around NSA spying on browser software that has been willfully or unwilfully infiltrated by the US governenment.

Security researchers and organisations should, according to Eich, regularly audit Mozilla source and verified builds by "all effective means', establish automated systems to verify official Mozilla builds from source, and issue an alert if "the verified bits differ from official bits".

"In the best case, we will establish such a verification system at a global scale, with participants from many different geographic regions and political and strategic interests and affiliations."

The Blackphone will be unveiled at Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona, where CBR will be reporting from the event.

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