FreedomPop 'Snowden Phone': 10 Facts About This Secure Handset

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2014-03-06 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

FreedomPop has responded to the world's growing concern over hacking and privacy with a new secure mobile handset nicknamed the "Snowden Phone," after the former U.S. government contractor who revealed the extent of the National Security Agency's digital surveillance programs. The handset, which is a modified Samsung Galaxy S2, is being called the Privacy Phone by Freedom Pop, and includes a wide array of encryption and VPN technologies aimed at limiting a person's exposure to possible infiltration on the part of hackers or, yes, the government. Since its founding in 2012, the small mobile provider has been trying to improve consumer privacy on wireless networks. The Privacy Phone comes fast on the heels of Boeing's Black smartphone, which was unveiled late in February at Mobile World Congress. It provides a wide range of privacy and security features to help the U.S. government sidestep international hackers. It's worth noting that the Snowden Phone doesn't appear to be as secure as the Boeing Black phone out of the box. This slide show examines how the FreedomPop Snowden Phone is designed to improve mobile security to the general public.

 
 
 
  • FreedomPop 'Snowden Phone': 10 Facts About This Secure Handset

    By Don Reisinger
    FreedomPop 'Snowden Phone':  10 Facts About This Secure Handset
  • Yes, It's a Galaxy S2

    Customers hoping to get their hands on an exotic or advanced smartphone from FreedomPop will be quite disappointed by what they find in the "Snowden Phone." The device is a modified Samsung Galaxy S2, which effectively means it's a three-year-old device. Why FreedomPop couldn't offer something newer is unknown.
    Yes, It's a Galaxy S2
  • FreedomPop Is All About Security

    One of the important things to understand about FreedomPop is that the company focuses almost entirely on security as its business model. Behind the "Snowden Phone" is the company's secure mobile network. It is focused entirely on customer privacy with an eye to governments around the world that it believes, are violating users' data privacy.
    FreedomPop Is All About Security
  • 'Edward Snowden' Is a Rallying Cry

    So, why is the handset known as the "Snowden Phone"? In one sense, it might be an attempt on FreedomPop's part to use the Snowden name as a PR ploy to attract more attention. In addition, it seems to be using the name as a rallying cry for those seeking more security and worried about unwarranted government access to their personal data. As FreedomPop pointed out in its press release announcing the device, the "Snowden Phone is a response to the growing frustrations and concerns around privacy infringement, call monitoring and Internet tracking." Those are all issues Snowden revealed in his leaks.
    'Edward Snowden' Is a Rallying Cry
  • FreedomPop's Network Is Secured VOIP

    So, what is FreedomPop's technology all about? According to the company, it's operating a secured voice over IP network that allegedly safeguards users from the prying eyes of hackers or government surveillance. That the handset will work over VOIP, however, means that users are reliant upon an Internet connection to place calls. That's an important distinction from FreedomPop's competitors.
    FreedomPop's Network Is Secured VOIP
  • Calls and Texts Are Encrypted

    According to FreedomPop, the "Snowden Phone" takes full advantage of the company's secured network by ensuring calls and text messages are encrypted as they pass through the company's network. Whether those calls and texts can actually be intercepted and then perhaps decrypted, however, is up for debate.
    Calls and Texts Are Encrypted
  • It Has 128-Bit Encryption

    Why is there such a debate over interception? Blame it on the type of encryption FreedomPop employs. The company says that it uses 128-bit encryption across its network and justifies that by saying that banks and government agencies are using the same. However, there are much stronger encryption methods, including those that rely on 256-bit encryption, which could make the service more appealing to privacy-seekers.
    It Has 128-Bit Encryption
  • All Web Browsing Is Anonymous

    Since the Galaxy S2 is designed to surf the Web, FreedomPop attempts to keep all browsing anonymous. The company claims it can achieve that by routing all of its data through a virtual private network. VPNs are highly secure and provide for more-secure browsing, but it's tough to say just how "anonymous" the Web browsing truly is over FreedomPop's network.
    All Web Browsing Is Anonymous
  • Pick a Number, Any Number

    Here's something that sets FreedomPop apart from the vast majority of other carriers in the world: The company allows its customers to change their phone numbers at any time, no matter how often they've done it. It's an interesting option that perhaps does more to protect a person's privacy than anything else FreedomPop does.
    Pick a Number, Any Number
  • The Phone Is Affordable

    One of the nice things about the "Snowden Phone" is that it's actually quite affordable. FreedomPop customers can get their hands on the device for just $189. That deal is offered without requiring a long-term contract. Best of all, for privacy-seekers, customers can use Bitcoin to purchase the device and maintain anonymity across the buying experience.
    The Phone Is Affordable
  • Plan Charges Might Add Up

    While the "Snowden Phone" might be cheap, the amount of data the company offers out of the box might not be enough. According to FreedomPop, it'll offer 500MB of free data for three months, plus voice and text. After that, the service costs $10 per month. But considering the market for the device, data charges could very quickly rise as people aim to surf the Web anonymously from their mobile devices. As most mobile users know, 500MB of data isn't much. So don't expect to pay $10 per month indefinitely.
    Plan Charges Might Add Up
 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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