I was reading last night about Blackphone, one of the most interesting things presented at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This new handset is being developed by a Spanish startup (Geeksphone) in partnership with the US-based security firm Silent Circle. The whole system appears to be based on a security-enhanced version of Android known as PrivatOS.

This phone is clearly a very interesting idea and a product to consider, specially because it is the first time someone does an actual step towards ensuring privacy of communications for smartphone users. However, I would like to have more details on how everything work. Blackphone claims that it can do encrypted voice calls, but something tells me that this is probably only possible among Blackphones and you cannot have an encrypted call with a “normal” phone. Moreover, this is not something new, as there are apps out there that allow to do the same things on, for example, an Android phone. The only privacy concern with those is whether the server running the app in the background gets to “see” the messages or not. And the same question applies to the Blackphone. I am assuming that, if the crypto is well done, everything stays within the phones involved in the “secret call”. But, again, having more tech details would be helpful.

On top of secured calls and messages, which can already be done with several well known apps (for example RedPhone), Blackphone has other interesting features, such as a fine-grained control of the permissions each app gets. On top of that, Blackphone does very simple things automatically, such as configuring WiFi in a way that it is not trying to connect to any hotspots it senses (avoiding potential Man-in-the-Middle attacks). It also seems to offer a way to remotely wipe the device without requiring a centralized service (like the Find My Phone feature from iCloud). I wonder how they do this, though, and how they address the wipe command from an arbitrary place in the Internet (i.e. my home computer) to the Blackphone without a server somewhere in between that keeps an open connection with the phone.

All in all, a very interesting phone, yours for 629$.

blackphone

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