Secure smartphones are nice, but not enough

Mike Elgan

The Blackphone prevents its wireless radios from being logged via Wi-Fi as you walk around. Wi-Fi turns off when you're outside the range of a trusted hotspot. All data on the phone is encrypted, so if your phone is lost or stolen nobody else can gain access to the data. It has its own remote-delete tools as well.

The phone comes with a two-year subscription to Silent Circle's platform that encrypts phone calls and emails. The subscription covers three people-the owner of the Blackphone and two friends or colleagues, regardless of what phones they use. It also comes with a two-year subscription to Disconnect, which anonymises Wi-Fi connections, and SpiderOak, which is an anonymous cloud storage service.

Blackphone is designed for the general market, but Geeksphone claims that it's getting inquiries from government customers.

The Blackphone handset will go on sale in June for US$629. It looks like a typical Android smartphone and is based on a security-hardened version of Android called PrivatOS.

The Black phone
For the past two years, aerospace and defence contractor Boeing has been working on a special-purpose phone called the Black for customers who work in the government, the military and espionage. The phone was revealed in public US FCC documents that all phone makers are required to file.

The Boeing Black phone is also an Android smartphone, but we know much less about it, because Boeing intends to keep its details secret. Papers filed with the FCC specifically request that information about the phone be kept secret, and a letter accompanying those papers says that even after the phone is available, it won't be available to the general public, nor will information about the phone be public.

The Black phone is small, thick and heavy. The handset is 5.2 in. tall. It's about twice as thick as an iPhone and much heavier. It has a modular design that enables users to attach add-ons, such as tracking tools, satellite transceivers, biometric sensors and solar charging devices.

The target market is government agencies and contractors who work with those agencies.

The Black phone will reportedly be "sealed." If the physical handset case is pried open, the phone will erase all of the data it holds. It will, essentially, self-destruct.

The Android-based Boeing Black smartphone is being marketed to government agencies and contractors.

It will also have two SIM card slots: one for regular public mobile networks and another for private government networks. When the phone is connected to a public network, its security features lock everything down so no data can be accessed. In order to gain access to certain information, the user has to disconnect the phone from the public network and connect to the private one.

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