By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
Silent Circle is on its way to creating the world’s first privacy ecosystem. How long will authorities and other regulating agencies allow such a space to last before shutting it down? Check out the company’s Blackphone 2 and see for yourself.
Founded by an Internet Security God
Philip Zimmerman co-founded Silent Circle in 2012 as part of his global efforts to keep prying eyes and ears out of private communications. Zimmerman is an Internet legend in some circles, having created what would become the most widely used email encryption software in the world in 1991. He’s suffered through multiple criminal investigations for his efforts to increase email and Internet privacy, behavior that shows the federal government’s most recent crackdowns on whistleblowers, privacy advocates, and journalists are nothing new. Zimmerman’s company, Silent Circle, develops smartphones and apps designed for multi-platform secure communication.
New Blackphone Encryption Protocols
The Blackphone 2 is Silent Circle’s latest iteration of its flagship smartphone, which sports an augmented version of the Android OS that its creators have dubbed, PrivatOS. The phone, with its 5.5-inch screen, uses ZRTP and SCIMP protocols, avoiding persistent public keys, which cuts down on complexity and locks down voice and instant message communications. The system also creates authentication strings that Blackphone 2 users can read to one another over the phone to detect man-in-the-middle attacks.
Worried about compromised servers leaking data to third parties? ZRTP and SCIMP don’t need servers to run, nor do the packages manage keys through SIP signaling. All keys generated during every call effectively self destruct when the call ends.
End to End Security Between Users
Ensuring data remains protected while it’s in flight and when it reaches its destination is the top task of every digital security company. In an age of NSA domestic spying and massive data breaches by rogue hackers, keeping our everyday communications private is thirsty work.
To combat snooping and large-scale data mining, Silent Circle’s Blackphone 2 keeps all communications, including phone calls, text messages, and video chats, secure through minimal data retention and peer-to-peer key negotiation. The company’s proprietary line of apps—Silent Text, Silent Phone, and Silent Contacts—work in tandem with the smartphone’s own operating system so conversations remain between involved parties.
Subscription Not Necessary: While Blackphone 2 users enjoy the highest level of protection, other smartphone users can still protect their incoming and outgoing messages. Download the company’s encryption apps for free and use them on any Android smartphone, Windows desktop, or iPhone.
Creating the First Privacy Ecosystem
By allowing users to keep communications secure from within their apps and devices, Silent Circle is creating a privacy ecosystem. In this arena, users can send and receive information with the relative certainty that minimal data is escaping to third parties. In addition, Blackphone users can leverage its operating system to create new “spaces,” which generate new user profiles each time, complete with a virtual OS to power apps and make calls. Every user profile basically runs a completely different phone isolated from all other profiles.
This ecosystem is the first of its kind in the world and one that comes with hefty price tag. At $649 per phone, potential users can’t get a two-year service agreement to cut down on cost.
Potential for Government Interference
While the operating system is not completely NSA proof in terms of resisting data mining, Blackphone 2 does propose a number of issues that could attract negative governmental interest. Without depending on servers to store meta data, Silent Circle could run into the same legal briar patch that ensnared Lavabit in 2013 and 2014. The system’s encryption technology could also attract the interest of organized crime as a potential tool to evade detection by law enforcement.
Even if used for nefarious purposes, Blackphone’s data protection is only as effective as its users allow. Sending data through unsecured sources is still a security risk, though Silent Circle professes that the phone itself is an impregnable digital fortress. In fact, its developers are so confident, that they’re offering a reward (or bounty, if you prefer) to anyone who finds mild to severe bugs in their system.
Data privacy is freedom in the modern world. When you need to keep sensitive information protected, trust Hotspot Shield to keep would-be attackers at bay.