Phones That Could Prevent NSA From Spying On You

I have written posts about ‘Top 5 Security Tools For Your Privacy For Free’ and ‘5 Small Tips To Protect Your Privacy Online’.

In it I have mentioned about NSA (National Security Agency, USA) and how they destroy our privacy.

Several experts have stressed the importance of securing your personal data and communications from eternal surveillance, chiefly by encrypting it. Encrypted data can only be read by someone who has a ‘key’ to it – a password that unlocks the true contents of the message.

While encryption isn’t a one-stop solution, it’s better than nothing.

Encryption isn’t fool-proof, nor can everything be encrypted. Take WhatsApp, It stores chats in an encrypted database on the phone’s local storage. As a proof of concept, a hacker gained access to the encryption keys and was able to read all the user’s chat messages in cleartext.

In theory, what this means is that any app installed on your phone can read/modify/upload these chats to an external server and wreck havoc with your private data.

But things have changed, a little bit. A number of security-conscious companies and individuals have expressed concern over the heightened surveillance, and nearly a year later, we’re seeing the fruits of their effort.

 

The Boeing Black

Boeing Black

Yeah, it’s the same aircraft manufacturer company. Never expected an aircraft company to make smartphones? Well, they did it.

Boeing Black is an Android based smartphone aimed at industries requiring a high level of secrecy, such as defense establishments and government agencies. What a irony.

Its hardware is kind of a mid-range smartphone- a 4.3” qHD display with a resolution of 960×540, a dual-core 1.2GHz ARM v9 CPU, a 1590mAh battery and a dual-SIM supporting both GSM and CDMA networks.

What’s special about it, is that it runs a custom version of Android that includes a “Hardware Encryption Engine” that encrypts the local flash storage, as well as any data transmitted from the device. The back panel of the device can be customized to feature a solar-charger, a biometric scanner and even satellite transceivers.

A feature called the “Hardware Root of Trust” verifies the authenticity of any software/apps that are installed on the device through a set of digital signatures, while a Secure Boot feature ensures that only secure and approved system images can be booted on the device.

If the system image is modified in any manner by an unauthorized source, the device will simply refuse to boot. The best thing about this phone is the ability to self destruct. the phone uses a special casing, that if tampered with, will trigger a series of functions that will erase all data contained on the device.

 

The Black Phone

The Black PhoneThe Boeing Black isn’t open to regular customers, a more viable option for privacy conscious customers is the Blackphone. Blackphone is an Android-based smartphone that provides secure texts and voice and video calls to its subscribers.

The device sells for $629, has as its co-founder Phil Zimmerman, who invented the PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption algorithm in 1991, which is still the most popular encryption method for securing emails, files and even whole disk drives. Another reason to buy the Blackphone if you worry about your privacy.

The Blackphone is manufactured by niche smartphone maker Geeksphone, while Silent Circle, known for its suite of secure communication apps provides the software.

The Operating System on the phone, is a version of Android stripped of all Google services, called PrivatOS. Baked into the OS itself, are Silent Circle’s flagship apps – Silent Phone, which provides encrypted voice and video calls, Silent Text which has encrypted messaging, and Silent Contacts which guards your contacts from apps trying to illicitly upload your contacts to their servers.

The phone features some powerful specs – a 4.7” 720p screen, a 2GHz processor, 16GB of on-board (non expandable) storage and an 8MP camera.

The phone doesn’t use any proprietary hardware, which means most of the platform code will be open sourced, allowing independent engineers to audit
and patch the code against any security loopholes.

As we all know, Android malware ships in the form of innocent looking apps that demand access to an overwhelming list of permissions, Blackphone’s
PrivatOS includes a full-fledged Security Center that gives you finegrained control over the data your apps can access. You can individually allow and deny access to permissions on a perapp basis, unlike stock Android which forces you to either accept or decline list of permissions.

The founders did warn that no device can be considered ‘NSA-proof’. But the Blackphone is a firm step in the right direction.

 

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