New Silent Phone Protects Your Privacy
Privacy and security are heightened concerns for many smartphone users in the wake of revelations about government surveillance. The top-tier phone manufacturers are not doing much to address these issues yet, but at least one startup company is. Learn more about Silent Circle and the Blackphone...
Secure Voice, Video and Text Communications
Silent Circle, co-founded by privacy and encryption pioneer Phil Zimmerman, offers a suite of apps for iPhone and Android mobile devices, that makes it possible to have secure voice calling and text messaging -- without any worries that NSA, FBI, CIA or some third-world hacker might be listening in.
The bigger news is that Silent Circle is taking pre-orders for its first hardware product, the Blackphone, which is slated to be available in June, 2014. From the ground up, the Blackphone is designed to protect privacy and keep your mobile data secure.
The hardware’s specs of the $630 Blackphone are respectable: 4.7-inch HD IPS screen, 2+ GHz quad core CPU, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB storage, LTE, HSPA+, 8-megapixel front camera with flash, plus rear camera.
Privacy-protecting software begins with PrivateOS, a customized version of Android. The Blackphone also comes loaded with a suite of Silent Circle Apps including:
Silent Phone: enables secure voice calls and video chats; conference calls between up to 6 Silent Circle subscribers
Silent Text: encrypted text messages, media files, and document files of up to 100 MB, with optional “burn notice,” a time set by the sender at which the message or file will self-destruct. A new encryption key is generated for every message and it never leaves your phone.
Silent Contacts: replacing the native Android contact manager, this app encrypts all of your contact data and gives the user control over who to share contacts with.
The Blackphone also has a built-in firewall; a security-hardened client for the SpiderOak cloud storage service; the Kismet WiFi Manager that prevents inadvertent WiFi connections to networks you have not used before; a remote “kill-switch” to disable the phone if it is lost or stolen; and selected secure third-party apps to be announced in June.
All of the network security is provided by the Silent Circle subscription-based network. A year’s free subscription comes with the Blackphone; thereafter, using Silent Circle Apps requires a $10/month subscription.
The Blackphone is unlocked and can be used with any GSM-based carrier. Most mobile providers outside the U.S. use GSM networks. In the U.S., the major GSM players are AT&T or T-Mobile. Both Verizon and Sprint use CDMA networks, so they're out of the Blackphone game.
Silent Circle Apps for Other Phones
Even without a Blackphone, however, you can still use the Silent Circle apps to enable secure, encrypted voice/video calling and text messaging. You can download the Silent Phone, Silent Text and Silent Contacts apps for iPhone or Android, in their respective app stores. The apps are free, but can only be used if you have a Silent Circle subscription, which costs $9.95 monthly or $99 annually.
There's even a Silent Circle Desktop app ($69.95 annually), which uses your Internet connection to enable secure VOIP communications. Think of this option as something like Skype on encryption-powered steroids.
Communicating Outside the Circle
So you've got yourself inside the Silent Circle, and you can communicate securely with other Silent Circle subscribers. What if youwant to call a landline or cell phone belonging to a friend or relative who is not using Silent Circle?
You’re not limited to other Silent Circle subscribers. Using the optional Out-Circle Access plan ($24 monthly), the Blackphone (or other phone with Silent Circle apps) can communicate with any other, non-subscribing phone in the U. S., Canada, and Puerto Rico (other areas will be added).
Between your secured phone and Silent Circle’s servers, communications are encrypted; they’re decrypted and passed along to the non-subscribing phone, and responses are encrypted before being passed back to you. Anyone monitoring your phone communications would have to figure out which Silent Circle server port was transmitting the unencrypted version of your communication, a daunting task. Out-Circle Access gives you up to 3000 minutes per month to communicate securely with non-subscribers.
Silent Circle's Blackphone has a nifty set of features, but as a business model, it’s vulnerable to imitators. One of the main benefits of Silent Circle may be its stimulation of other, established handset makers and carriers to offer similar security services. In any event, Silent Circle provides a place where users can express their need for privacy by using and paying for it.
On a related note: Boeing Corp. has built a “Mission Impossible” style self-destructing handset exclusively for government agencies and contractors. This device is sealed with epoxy and tamper-resistant screws; if any effort is made to open it, all data and software are destroyed. Multiple encryption techniques protect data in storage and transmission. The Boeing phone is marketed mainly to U.S. security and defense contractors.
Would you buy a Blackphone, or use apps to enable encrypted communications? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 28 Feb 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- New Silent Phone Protects Your Privacy (Posted: 28 Feb 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved