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Can This Smartphone Beat the NSA?

Blackphone is a pricy phone for the paranoid

Can This Smartphone Beat the NSA?© 2019 Blackphone

Ever since the revelations of NSA spying from Edward Snowden, the public have never been more aware and more concerned about their privacy online. While some are happy to have “nothing to hide” others are looking for a better way to hide from would-be snoops, be they hackers, corporations, or the government.

Luckily, a product just for them is about to hit the market: the Blackphone. Concerned by the obvious security vulnerabilities in traditional smartphones, the makers of the Blackphone set out to create a phone which was both unhackable and completely encrypted. Due for release in just three weeks, the final product is medium-powered phone armed with applications which protect the privacy of the user built into a custom Android client.

In terms of hardware, the Blackphone is not quite top of the line, but doesn’t skimp either. Shipping with a 4.7 inch HD IPS display, you can be sure your visuals will be crisp, while the quad-core 2GHz processor and NVIDIA Tegra 4i GPU will ensure you always have sufficient computing power on hard. In addition, the phone comes with a 5MP front camera, 1GB of RAM, and a 2000mAh battery pack.

Image: © 2014 Blackphone

While hardware is always important, it’s the software that sets the Blackphone apart. Built from the ground up with privacy in mind, the phone boasts a more secure version of Android which it calls PrivatOS. As well as having a simplified and secure form of sharing controls, the operating system comes with a suite of apps allowing for untraceable communications. This includes an encrypted messaging and calling service, courtesy of the Silent Circle series of apps, as well as VPN and anonymous browsing capabilities.

With all these features would your phone be that much more secure?

In addition, updates to the operating system are transmitted through a secure proprietary server rather than through a carrier approval process, reducing the risk of malicious or invasive code being installed on the device. Furthermore, the makers of the device emphasises that their business model treats privacy as a premium sales point, rather than standard mobile phone manufacturers and carriers, which are keen to collect and sell a user’s data to the highest bidder, or indeed the government.

And so, with all these features would your phone be that much more secure? Obviously, yes. To common hackers and criminals, this phone would make an unattractive target. However, the phone is not going to stop a committed attacker, such as the omnipresent NSA. Such is the nature of digital devices that should a party really want access to your communications, and if they have enough time, they can eventually find a way.

With this in mind, the Blackphone is perhaps not worth the $600 price tag with which it is being sold. Its features are indeed secure, and its software is a breath of fresh air in a world where every company seems to be trying to sell your personal data to the highest bidder, but this may not be enough to convince average people to pay a premium. For future iterations, we hope Blackphone will lift their game and drop their price.


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