Silent Circle and Geeksphone introduce Blackphone, promise to place privacy and control directly in users' hands

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Silent Circle, aglobal encrypted communications service from Washington D.C., andGeeksphone, a Spanish company that recently released the Revolutiondual-OS smartphone, announced Blackphone – a smartphone thatpromises to “place privacy and control directly in the hands of itsusers”.

The Blackphone is acarrier and vendor-independent smartphone that gives individuals andorganizations the ability to make and receive secure phone calls,exchange secure texts, transfer and store files, and video chatwithout compromising user privacy on the device. Blackphone ispowered by a security-oriented Android build, named PrivatOS. Thisfork of Android contains a Security Center that lets users modifyevery permission Android apps may want to take advantage of, both onapp-by-app and system-wide basis. For example, you could cut accessto location, phonebook, messaging data, and other common malwaretargets. In addition, there's a "Wi-Fi manager" thatprevents tracking, and an integrated ad-blocker that will preventwebsites from targeting ads in your direction based on browsinghabits and email keywords.

Apart from PrivatOS,what makes this phone tick in a secure manner is Silent Circle's suiteof apps. Silent Phone provides two-side encrypted VoIP calls. SilentText does the same for messaging. Silent Contacts uses someunspecified means to protect your phonebook from prying eyes.Although all of these apps are available for other Android and iOSdevices, we presume they are integrated deeper within the Blackphone's software back-end.

There is anothercatch. Silent Circle's applications encrypt your communications two-ways only if the other side is security-conscious enough to be usingthem as well. These apps require paid subscription, of which not manyusers will be keen on. Thus, everybody who buys a Blackphone willreceive three extra one-year subscriptions to hand to people theyneed to speak with in private. After the subscriptions run out, userswill have to pay $10 per month, or buy a Blackphone.

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The phone's softwaresuite is expanded by partnerships with SpiderOak and Disconnect. Thefirst provides 5GB of encrypted cloud storage, while the second runsyour search engine queries through a VPN. Both services aresubscription-based, but Blackphone users will get two years of freeusage.

Interestingly,Silent Circle plans to open-source a "vast majority" of thephone's code in an effort to improve its product. The open approachhas worked out for Google, Mozilla, and Jolla, for example. Byfostering a developer community, they are able to provide frequentupdates and cover loopholes quickly. This is smart thinking on SilentCircle's behalf.

The Blackphone willbe up for pre-order soon. The off-contract price will be $629. SilentCircle points out that the price includes over $850 in additionalservice subscriptions, which is compelling, to say the least. It alsooffers a decent feature-set, such as a 4.7-inch IPS display, a 2GHzquad-core CPU, 16GB of storage, 8MP camera, and LTE.

There are many areasons to be sceptic about a security-centric device that relies onlargely familiar protection methods, instead of truly ground-breakingtechnology. However, most of the people behind Silent Circle couldcrush malware by simply staring it down.For example, CEO Mike Jankeis an ex-US Navy Seal (as you know, there are no former marines); PhilZimmermann, author of an email encryption software package that puthim under a three-year criminal investigation; Jon Callas, CTO and“former Security Privateer at I Could Tell You But Then I'd Have ToKill You and Associates” (as taken from his LinkedIn Page). Feelingsecure now?

source: Blackphonevia TheVerge

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