Blackphone Aims to Bolster Mobile Security With PrivatOS, App Store

1 - Blackphone Aims to Bolster Mobile Security With PrivatOS, App Store
2 - The Design Is Basic Black
3 - Privacy and Data Security Mean Everything to Its Owners
4 - There's a Privacy-Focused App Store Coming
5 - There's a Forked Version of Android Under the Hood
6 - PrivatOS to Support Separate Work, Personal Data Domains
7 - Blackphone's Hardware Specs Are Middle of the Road
8 - Be Sure to Check Out Silent Suite
9 - Blackphone Is Not NSA-Proof
10 - Encryption Is Everywhere on the Device
11 - All That Security Comes at a Price
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Blackphone Aims to Bolster Mobile Security With PrivatOS, App Store

by Don Reisinger

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The Design Is Basic Black

From a design perspective, the Blackphone will in no way win awards. The Blackphone's case is basic black, relieved only by a logo etched in gray and the brand named embossed in white. However, in terms of mobility, the Blackphone easily fits in a pocket or a hand. The device is just 2.7 inches wide, 5.4 inches tall and 0.33 inches in depth.

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Privacy and Data Security Mean Everything to Its Owners

So, why buy the Blackphone? Ultimately, it's about privacy and data security. While the company has been quick to correct those who say it's the panacea that addresses all mobile security concerns, some security experts have said that it does a fine job of securing data. That's important to many customers today.

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There's a Privacy-Focused App Store Coming

Blackphone announced on Dec. 9 that it is planning to launch an application marketplace for the handset that is designed with privacy and security in mind. The app marketplace is going to be open to developers who want to produce software for smartphone users who place a premium on security and privacy. If all goes well, it could help bolster the security of the Blackphone's software ecosystem.

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There's a Forked Version of Android Under the Hood

It might sound odd that a device focused on security would be running Android—the top target for hackers and cyber-criminals—but that's exactly what's installed on the Blackphone. The Blackphone team has, however, developed a forked version of Android called PrivatOS that is designed to be more secure than the typical mobile operating system.

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PrivatOS to Support Separate Work, Personal Data Domains

PrivatOS is designed with privacy in mind. An update due for release in early 2015 will support "secure spaces" that allow users to set up separate personal and work-related domains to increase the privacy of both types of data and applications. In other words, the device can maintain "virtual devices" running within the operating system, which supports multiple phone numbers and user profiles. The Blackphone's PrivatOS also includes control over app permissions, remote wipe and secure cloud backup.

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Blackphone's Hardware Specs Are Middle of the Road

Although people won't necessarily buy the Blackphone for its hardware specifications, they are in the mobile market's midrange. The handset comes with a 2GHz quad-core processor, a 4.7-inch HD IPS display, and support for both LTE and HSPA+ cellular connections. There's 1GB of memory in the smartphone and 16GB of storage. The phone also comes with an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and 1.3-megapixel front camera.

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Be Sure to Check Out Silent Suite

The Silent Suite built into PrivatOS is an extremely important feature. The application suite is proprietary to Blackphone and includes full encryption to secure voice calls, video calls, texts and file transfers. Users can place private calls with Silent Phone, text without fear of snooping with Silent Text and safeguard contacts with Silent Contacts.

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Blackphone Is Not NSA-Proof

After the Blackphone was unveiled earlier this year, there were many people who wondered if the smartphone would be inaccessible to snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency. The company said time and again in several media interviews that the device is not "NSA-proof." While the device promotes security from casual and criminal intruders, all potential buyers should believe that the NSA can still access data on the Blackphone with the right techniques and tools if it wants to urgently enough.

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Encryption Is Everywhere on the Device

Encryption is, of course, at the center of any truly secure product. So it's perhaps no surprise that Blackphone has promised reliable encryption for all essential device functions. In addition to encrypted storage and a fully encrypted operating system, the handset has the aforementioned encrypted Silent Suite and comes with one year of encrypted Web browsing from third-party partner Disconnect. Encryption is also available with the cloud backup provided by SpiderOak.

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All That Security Comes at a Price

With all of the security features built into the Blackphone, it's perhaps no surprise that some buyers might find the smartphone pricey. The phone, which is available now, retails for $629, plus shipping and taxes, based on the destination address. Buyers will also have to pay extra if they want a Silent Circle subscription, encrypted Web browsing or cloud backup after a period of one year. No one said a security smartphone is a bargain these days.

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