Super-secure Blackphone unveiled, still not NSA-proof

The encrypted Blackphone offers super-secure communication, but is it NSA-proof? (Blackphone)

WASHINGTON — In the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations, security and privacy are on a lot of minds, but the developer of a just-released super-secure smartphone says “there is no such device that is NSA-proof.”

Blackphone was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It will go on sale in June for $629.

The smartphone looks like a typical Android phone, and uses a custom version of Android called PrivatOS.

Standard applications include standard calling and text messages, as well as encrypted file transfer and video chat.

“It’s a phone whose existence is motivated by the need to protect your privacy,” says Phil Zimmerman of Silent Circle, in an interview with PCWorld.

Silent Circle, a U.S. company that makes secure communications apps is partnering with Geeksphone, a Spanish startup, to produce Blackphone.

The secure communications occurs when two devices – either two Blackphones or a Blackphone and another phone using a Silent Circle app – connect and negotiate encryption keys.

The secure connection ensures the communication remains unintelligible to third- parties, even Silent Circle’s servers.

“We don’t require that you trust us,” Zimmerman tells PCWorld. “Imagine if our servers fell into the wrong hands. What if the NSA confiscated our servers and installed them in Fort Meade, it wouldn’t make any difference.”

Still vulnerable to government snooping

Despite the hardened software and hardware, Blackphone’s inventors say they can’t guarantee the communications won’t fall into someone else’s hands.

“There is no such device that is NSA-proof,” says Mike Janke, co-founder and CEO of Silent Circle, in an interview with Mashable.

“If you are on the terrorist wanted list or a criminal, intelligence services will get into your device,” says Janke. “There’s no such thing as a 100-percent secure phone.”

Janke says Silent Circle turned down offers from large phone-makers so it could control the security process as much as possible.

With the custom version of Android PrivatOS, Janke says users will be able “to control every part of what data their phone is leaking, their calls, their contacts, their web browsing and what any app put on their phone can do.”

According to Mashable, PrivateOS will also include the full suite of Silent Circle encrypted apps (with a two-year subscription), 5GB of encrypted cloud storage from SpiderOak and anonymous browsing and Virtual Private Network from Disconnect.Me.

See how Blackphone works:

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