Blackphone launches with ultra-secure features, but it’s still not NSA-proof

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Two tech companies  launched what they promise is the most privacy-focused, secure smartphone on the market at Mobile World Congress Monday, but the “Blackphone” failed to live up to its “NSA-proof” media hype after being announced in January.

“There is no such device that is NSA-proof,” Silent Circle co-founder and C.E.O. Mike Janke told Mashable. “If you are on the terrorist wanted list or a criminal, intelligence services will get into your device… There’s no such thing as 100 percent secure phone.”

Silent Circle, an established secure-communications app developer, and smartphone-startup Geeksphone formed Swiss-based joint-venture SGP Technologies to develop Blackphone, which runs on PrivatOS — a “security-oriented” version of Android software that uses a virtual private network (VPN) to make users’ phone activity anonymous. It allows users to untraceably and privately make calls, send texts, send and receive files, and video chat.

Blackphone’s core features focus on privacy and security, and users will have the ability to control the data permissions of every individual app they download to the device. The phone will be sold unlocked and the operating system will eventually be open source, allowing users to customize it themselves.

“We had always thought that in order to have what we would call a better level of security for both individuals and organizations we had to own the ecosystem,” Janke said, explaining why the company overlooked established smartphone developers and built one themselves. “And the only way to do that was to own the OS and own the device.”

The phone’s specs were officially announced at the conference, and include a 2GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, an 8-megapixel camera, and a 4.7-inch, 720p resolution display screen. All of Silent Circle’s encryption apps will come pre-installed with two-year subscriptions, 5 gigs of encrypted cloud storage from SpiderOak, and will provide the anonymous VPN browsing service.

Blackphones were made available for pre-order Monday for $629, and will start shipping in June.


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