Monday, March 2, 2015

Blackphone is back: Privacy firm launches its next-generation ‘spy’ phone

Blackphone is back: Privacy firm launches its next-generation ‘spy’ phone and a tablet that's impossible to track

  • Original Blackphone launched at last year’s Mobile World Congress
  • Blackphone 2 has a larger screen, better cameras and double storage
  • It runs on the encrypted PrivatOS on Android plus Silent Suite apps 
  • These include private video and voice calls, texts and app store 
  • Firm also announced tablet and both devices will go on sale later this year 
  • Neither will be tied to a network nor will they ship with bloatware Price details have not yet been announced 

Blackout: The range is fully encrypted by default and comes with secure features that let you make calls and send texts that are impossible to track

If you’re fed up of apps asking to access your private data and don’t want advertisers tracking your every move, there is now a range of ‘spy’ phones designed to keep you off the grid.

The original Blackphone was unveiled last year and its successor - the Blackphone 2 - as well as the first ever Blacktablet have been announced at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The range is fully encrypted by default and comes with a suite of secure features that let you make calls and send texts that are impossible to eavesdrop on or track.

Blackphone’s Android-based devices are built by Spanish manufacturer GeeksPhone alongside security experts Silent Circle and Pretty Good Privacy (PGP).

They launched the original handset at last year’s Mobile World Congress and told MailOnline that the range is for people who ‘want to stay private without compromising on the features seen on typical Android phones.’

Everything from the custom-built PrivatOS to web browsing and apps, are encrypted, or have been fitted with an extra layer of security.

PrivatOS is a so-called ‘skin’ that runs on top of traditional Android software, meaning all Android apps are compatible.

The encryption on the Blackphone, Blackphone 2 and tablet is done via the Silent Circle and SpiderOak privacy and security software.

Subscriptions are included for two years with each device, and they can then be renewed.

As the firm explained: ‘There is no bloatware, no hooks to carriers, and no leaky data.

‘It puts privacy in the hands of you and your [business], without any sacrifices.’
For the Blackphone 2, this software has been upgraded to version 1.1, designed to separate work apps from personal ones through the use of multiple profiles on the same device.
If the phone is locked, a business can remotely lock and wipe just the enterprise profile while letting the owner take control of the private profile.

Internet access is carried out through a virtual private network (VPN) that sends and receives data in a way designed to keep it hidden.

When the phone boots up, it asks for a password and PIN before a wizard guides users through the security options.
Upgrade: Blackphone’s Android-based devices are built by Spanish manufacturer GeeksPhone alongside security experts Silent Circle and Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) (handset specs shown)

For example, this shows users which apps want access to which data. The Blackphone owner can then decide to restrict access to that information and handpick the apps and the data they share.

Mike Kershaw, chief architect from Blackphone told MailOnline the range was designed to have ‘the benefit of security without having to have an in-depth knowledge of how to make a phone secure.’

The company said it is 'anti-personal data from the ground up’ and added the phone will appeal to those who don't want any data collection, those who agree with principle of collecting data and businessmen.

 HOW SECURE IS THE BLACKPHONE? 

Everything, from the custom-built PrivatOS to web browsing and apps, are encrypted, or have been fitted with an extra layer of security.

The encryption on the Blackphone, Blackphone 2 and Blackphone tablet is done via the Silent Circle and SpiderOak privacy and security software.

Internet access on the phone is carried out through a virtual private network (VPN) that sends and receives data in a way that’s designed to keep it hidden.

When the phone boots up it asks for a password and PIN before a wizard guides users through the security options.

For example, it shows users which apps want access to which data. The BlackPhone owner can then decide to restrict access to that information and handpick the apps and the data they share.

Mike Kershaw, chief architect from Blackphone told MailOnline the smartphone was designed to have ‘the benefit of security without having to have an in-depth knowledge of how to make a phone secure.’

With the Blackphone 2, in particular, the experts have teamed up with business technology and security experts such as Citrix to make it more appealing to companies and their employees.

The Blackphone 2 is larger than the original with a screen size of 5.5-inches compared to last year’s 4.7-inch.

A 13MP camera has been added to the rear, up from 8MP, and a 5MP is now on the front.

The Blackphone 2 has doubled the storage of its predecessor and added a longer battery life - although the firm didn’t give specifics.

It will go on sale by June this year, although price details were not announced.

Last year’s phone cost $629 (£376) plus shipping and the updated version is likely to cost roughly the same amount.

Silent Circle subscriptions start at $12.95 (£8.40) a month for 100 Silent World Minutes in 120 destinations, up to $39.95 (£26) for 1,000 minutes. But this is included in the price of the phone or tablet.
Private: The company said it is 'anti-personal data from the ground up’ and added the phone will appeal to those who don't want any data collection (original Blackphone model pictured)
Private: The company said it is 'anti-personal data from the ground up’ and added the phone will appeal to those who don't want any data collection (original Blackphone model pictured)

The firm didn’t reveal much more information about the new flagship tablet, other than it will go on sale later this year.

A spokesperson said it decided to launch a tablet because many people don’t want to give up their everyday phone, but still want to have a certain level of privacy.

‘Public awareness of the erosion of privacy has never been higher,’ Phil Zimmermann, co-founder of Silent Circle told MailOnline at this year’s event in Barcelona.

‘There is a rising tide of news reports of the catastrophic loss of privacy, take Sony Pictures or the Gemalto hack of sim keys in recent weeks. There are almost daily incidents of company’s who’ve had their company data leaked.

‘Never before have people been aware of the excesses of pervasive surveillance from major governments.’

BLACKPHONE'S SILENT SUITE APPLICATIONS 

Silent Suite is the Blackphone’s core set of app that encrypts calls, texts and other communication to keep it private. It is available on PrivatOS but can also be installed on iOS and Android.

Silent Circle subscriptions start at $12.95 (£8.40) a month for 100 Silent World Minutes to 120 destinations, up to $39.95 (£26) for 1,000 minutes.

Features include:

Silent Phone: This lets users make private voice and video calls in HD clarity over a peer to-peer encrypted VoIP service.
Silent Text: Share unlimited encrypted texts and transfer files. Includes Burn functionality to destroy selected messages automatically.
Silent Contacts: Safeguards personal and business contacts by automatically encrypting the address book.
Silent Store: Installed on all Blackphone devices, the privacy-focused app store features apps from the developers vetted by Silent Circle.
Silent World: Silent World is an encrypted calling plan that lets users communicate privately with those who don't have Silent Phone.
Silent Manager: Silent Manager gives businesses a way to privately manage plans, users and devices with ease. 

‘A lot of android phones are tied into Google who want to learn a lot about what you do.

‘So there are a lot of things that you do that help them track your behaviours, but on the other hand they give you features for that.

‘Or take another example, Facebook. People love the features on Facebook – but people give up their privacy in order to benefit from the features. That’s built into Facebook’s business model. If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.’

Although the company touts the benefits of the device there is the possibility handsets such as Blackphone will be used by criminals to hide their activity.

Addressing these concerns, Mr Zimmermann said: ‘Bonnie and Clyde, the famous bank robbers, almost a hundred years ago, revolutionised bank robbery by using cars to get away from the scene of the crime.

‘Police floated the idea that cars should be required to have smaller petrol tanks. Any new technology can be used by criminals to make their criminal activity work better for them.’

Blackphone’s managing director, Toby Weir-Jones told MailOnline: ‘The availability of a tool does not create the intent for mischief.

'If you’re a bad guy, the fact [Blackphone] is making cryptography usable doesn’t mean you’re going to take that a step further; you're not going to become bad because of that knowledge either.’ 


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2975406/Blackphone-Privacy-firm-launches-generation-range-spy-devices-impossible-track.html#ixzz3THoSIsWF

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