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Silent Circle unveils new 'security focused smartphone'

by Josef Kafka

In recent months the news has been dominated by stories relating to hacking, security and privacy – from the high profile hack of Sony Pictures computer systems, to the information revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden detailing the data collection and analysis practices of both the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). In particular, the recent revelation that both of these government security agencies may have hacked into the sim cards of billions of users worldwide has made many people worry about surveillance, and made them think twice about how they use their mobile phones and other electronic devices. Being worried about security and privacy online is nothing new, but with the internet of things (where every device is connected to the internet and so can be used to carry out surveillance and collect data) set to develop over the next decade, many users are now more concerned than ever before. In light of this, many mobile phone manufacturers and providers are going out of their way to ensure their customers that their data is safe, and that their security and privacy of the utmost importance. One company, however, have gone one step further.

Silent Circle, a software company founded in 2012 that specialises in encrypted communications, has recently announced the release of their brand new mobile device – the Blackphone 2. This encrypted device was developed to capitalise on many user's worries about security, privacy and surveillance, and looks set to take the market by storm over the coming year. Their first device, the Blackphone, was released last year, and although it was acclaimed by many in both the technology and security industries, it never broke fully into the mainstream. However, in the wake of the recent revelations about surveillance and privacy, the Blackphone 2 looks set to do just that. 

This 'security focused smartphone' offers users peace of mind with regards to their security and privacy. It will use Silent Circle software and applications to securely encrypt all communications, including telephone conversations, text messages and emails. Like its predecessor, the Blackphone 2 runs a tailored version of Android called PrivatOS which promises “no software, no hooks to carriers, and no leaky data”. Unlike the original Blackphone, however, the Blackphone 2 is aimed more at businesses that want to protect both their privacy and their important data. It includes a new feature called Spaces, which separates and individually encrypts work and personal communications, applications, documents and data, adding an extra layer of security. Each of these spaces can be locked and wiped separately, allowing for total control of what is and isn't available on the device. It also comes with a new encrypted conference calling application called Silent Meeting. However, Silent Circle has suffered some hacks in the past. Just last year one of its users reported a vulnerability in its encrypted text messaging service, SilentText, which would allow potential hackers to not only access and steal, but also decrypt personal data from the device just as easily as they could from a traditional mobile phone. This vulnerability has now been fixed. 

The release of the Blackphone 2 comes at a time when many people are questioning the surveillance capabilities and security of their electronic devices, and as more and more of them become capable of collecting and transferring data to third parties, security focused technology could become big business. Where once many of us relied on privacy policies to keep our personal information safe, we may now need to switch to a more secure way of storing and transferring our data.

The Blackphone 2 and Blackphone + tablet are set to go on sale sometime later this year.

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