New phone promises data safety [Nation (Kenya)]
(Nation (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) In a grand twist of fate, BlackBerry, currently in a very uncertain position due to its near death experience, carries one of the most critical features that historically no phone has been able to emulate.
I am talking about enterprise security. BlackBerry was built from the ground up with securing end-user data being its underlying principle. It has highly rated security features to keep the end-user data hidden from prying eyes.
Two commonly used services, PIN and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), offer end-to-end encryption. They encrypt data before it leaves the phone, and decrypt it after it is received by the sender. Therefore, captured data is not easily decipherable.
The security accolades, however, have not been enough to keep BlackBerry far from meeting is maker.
Data privacy is becoming ever more critical. Boeing, the plane manufacturer, has built a self-destructing phone, called the Boeing Black Smartphone, aimed at eliminating data loss in case the device is stolen or tampered with.
However, there is another device that mimics the BlackBerry. In light of the humiliating scandal that saw both the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel among others get spied on, it is a well-timed device.
The current frosty post-spying moods have proven to be a boon for device manufacturers with security in mind, led by two companies, which in a joint-venture (JV), are bringing a new secure smartphone. The device is based on a fork of the Android Operating System (OS).
Both Android and iOS have proven to carry security holes, but the Blackphone is now attempting to solve that. It is built by SGP Technologies based in Switzerland, a JV between Silent Circle, the company that provided the secure encrypted email service, Silent Mail, which shut down owing to government pressure, and Geeksphone, a Spanish smartphone start-up. Their fork of Android is called PrivatOS, a future open source system.
In terms of features, the device is pretty much a standard smartphone, with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a 2GHz quad-core system-on-a-chip (SoC), a 4.7-inch 720p IPS screen, with two cameras, a primary 8-megapixel camera with flash, and a second 1.3MP front facing camera. However, at its heart is PrivatOS. This is where the phone differs from the rest.
It features apps built to ensure that your phone remains secure at all times, and plugs any potential data leaks.
Currently, most smartphones leak data every so often, from contacts to messages. It is worsened by the fact that most applications request access to your private data or certain services. They actually use your authorisation to transfer the data they access. Refusing to grant the apps access to your data means that you may be unable to install them.
This is the ambiguity of the necessary permissions that the Blackphone aims to discern. It wants to ensure that the device owner has better control of their data and the apps that access the information.
Accompanying PrivatOS is the ability to use end-to-end encryption, which is offered as a subscription service, featuring the entire suite of Silent Circle's encrypted communication applications. The subscription includes 5GB of encrypted secure storage and an encrypted anonymous Virtual Private Network (VPN) for anonymous browsing.
Thus, the device and the software within it are secure, leaving one last element in the equation, the carrier.
To ensure that such valiant efforts do not go to waste, carrier support is usually needed. First to step up is Deutsche Telekom (DT), which has gone on a security offensive.
DT is already offering its own secure email service – "Email Made in Germany". It will support both the Blackphone and future FirefoxOS phones. Their support includes end-to-end encryption as historically offered by BlackBerry. They have encrypted voice calls, and most importantly, they are backing a new encryption initiative of electronic communication on mobile networks.
The primary challenge with encryption has always been in its most vulnerable aspect, the end-users. If one end-user is compromised or lacks a compatible device, then encryption is bound to fail.
Thus, Blackphone is also offering friends and family packages. It is expected in the market in June, and will retail at $629, with subscription to its security services expected to cost up to $1500
The writer is the CE of Able Wireless Company (www.ablehq.co.ke), a media streaming service provider
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