What the Blackphone Means for Mobile Security
NEWS ANALYSIS: The new secure Android phone has arrived, but what does it say about Android itself and what can security-conscious individuals do to get the same security today?The world needs a secure Android phone like the Blackphone. Not only will it protect users against privacy violations, but it potentially will always be fully patched, too. The Blackphone began shipping on June 30 as a security-focused mobile device. At its core, the Blackphone uses the PrivatOS operating system, which is based on Android KitKat. The general idea, as I see it, is that by being focused on security, Blackphone developers will make sure that security patches are quickly integrated into the phone. Hardly a week goes by when there isn't some news about yet another mobile vulnerability, which more often than not is directly targeted at Android. One of the most recent examples comes from IBM, which published an Android security advisory on June 23 describing a buffer overflow condition, which Google thus far has only patched for its Android 4.4 KitKat users. The flaw that IBM discovered is not a unique occurrence and the fact that Google is not patching all Android operating system versions at the same time unfortunately is the common practice as well. Simply put, the fragmented nature of Android, in terms of both version number and the myriad handset vendors that roll their own flavors, makes comprehensive Android patching a particularly daunting challenge.
Unpatched, publicly disclosed vulnerabilities, however, are only one of many security risks facing mobile users today. In the post-Edward Snowden era, where awareness of mass surveillance tools by nation-states is part of the public consciousness, there is a need for a privacy-enhanced mobile device, and that's where the Blackphone fits in. The Blackphone is a joint venture of Silent Circle and Geeksphone. Silent Circle builds private encrypted voice and video messaging applications that are now directly integrated onto the Blackphone.