The Ups and Downs of the new NSA-Fighting Blackphone

The world’s first supposedly completely secure smartphone sold out after just its first two days on sale.

blackphone

Silent Circle’s Android-based Blackphone is designed to block attacks of all kinds, including – and this is its biggest sales pitch – snoopers from the NSA.

According to World Tech Today , the Blackphone was spawned directly from Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s massive domestic surveillance program that has free-ranging abilities to monitor cellphone calls and data transmissions.

The backbone of the Blackphone’s security system is its Android-based PrivatOS platform, and its Silent Phone and Silent Text apps. These are encrypted communications services with a common directory service. They work over broadband cellular and Wi-Fi connections, and provide users with voice and video calls, as well as text messaging and data transfer without relying on a server – that can be vulnerable to data poaching – in the middle of those communications. The PrivOS platform also includes fine-grained permissions controls.

The Blackphone’s required app sideloading could provide create a malware vulnerability for this otherwise secure device, so users are well-advised by Kaspersky experts to user a mobile AV platform on their Blackphone.

At $629 retail, the Blackphone would do well to live up to its own lofty standards, and an initial review by Ars Technica backs up the Blackphone’s security credibility. Their assessment? “Blackphone is pretty damn secure.”

So, initial returns are that the Blackphone is secure, but how does it work in day-to-day smartphone operations?

Because the phone relies on whatever phone networks are available in any given area, call and video call qualities can suffer, according to Ars Technica. And because the Google ecosystem is unavailable on the device – include Google Play and all apps associated therein – users will have to sideload third-party apps; Ars Technica notes that Amazon Store apps work well on the device.

But this sideloading could provide create a malware vulnerability for this otherwise secure device, so users are well-advised by Kaspersky experts to user a mobile AV platform on their Blackphone, should they choose to part with the better part of $1,000 to secure their mobile communications privacy.

Ultimately, Ars Technica concludes the phone is a good fit for individuals and businesses that place a high value on privacy and are technically savvy, but it may not be a great fit for non-technical users. And anyone who does decide to use it should be prepared to take extra precautions to make their secure Blackphone even more secure once they begin to add third-party apps.

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