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Cellphones Communications Encryption Handhelds Privacy Security Hardware

Ars Takes an Early Look At the Privacy-Centric Blackphone 67

Posted by timothy
from the all-voice-calls-should-be-encrypted dept.
Ars Technica has spent some time with pre-production (but very nearly final) samples of the Blackphone, from Geeksphone and Silent Circle. They give it generally high marks; the hardware is mostly solid but not cutting edge, but the software it comes with distinguishes it from run-of-the-mill Android phones. Though it's based on Android, the PrivOS system in these phone offers fine grained permissions, and other software included with the phone makes it more secure both if someone has physical access to the phone (by encrypting files, among other things) and if communications between this phone and another are being eavesdropped on. A small taste: At first start up, Blackphone’s configuration wizard walks through getting the phone configured and secured. After picking a language and setting a password or PIN to unlock the phone itself, the wizard presents the option of encrypting the phone’s stored data with another password. If you decline to encrypt the phone’s mini-SD storage during setup, you’ll get the opportunity later (and in the release candidate version of the PrivOS we used, the phone continued to remind me about that opportunity each time I logged into it until I did). PrivOS’ main innovation is its Security Center, an interface that allows the user to explicitly control just what bits of hardware functionality and data each application on the phone has access to. It even provides control over the system-level applications—you can, if you wish for some reason, turn off the Camera app’s access to the camera hardware and turn off the Browser app’s access to networks.
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Ars Takes an Early Look At the Privacy-Centric Blackphone

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  • I say XPrivacy (Score:5, Informative)

    by johanw (1001493) on Monday June 30, 2014 @04:19AM (#47348517)

    "PrivOS’ main innovation is its Security Center, an interface that allows the user to explicitly control just what bits of hardware functionality and data each application on the phone has access to"

    Those of us with a normal but rooted Android can do these things already with XPrivacy, an XPosed module. Fine grained control per system call, also for system apps (yes, that includes keeping pre-installed Facebook out of my address book and gps data). And I can choose to simply refuse, or tell it the address book is empty and I'm on the south pole.

  • by Travis Mansbridge (830557) on Monday June 30, 2014 @05:21AM (#47348655)
    The FBI has been able to listen to any cell phone mic, even when off (as long as it has battery power) for quite [cnet.com] some [go.com] time [dailykos.com] now [techdirt.com].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @06:52AM (#47348879)

    The mic is not the main concern. Where I live, it is mandated by law that you have to show national ID card when you purchase any phone, and have the phone no and IMEI numbers associated with you.

    Meaning they are automatically tracking everybody, and indeed the police cameras routinely use cell phone location information (among others) to narrow down the face recognition hits. (Yes, this system exists and is publicly announced).

    It is harder to listen in to the mic on everyone all the time.

  • by disposable60 (735022) on Monday June 30, 2014 @12:14PM (#47350959) Journal

    2 towers are enough.
    With the right software, 2 antennae on one tower are enough.

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

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