Smartphone Wars

Patrick Wolff, Staff Writer

In 2013, NSA contractor Edward Snowden released classified materials detailing the US governments Internet surveillance programs and their collection of US and European telephone data. The leaks have left many Americans feeling uneasy at the prospect of the government having the power to access their phone records and emails without their consent or knowledge. However, a new smartphone, being marketed as NSA-proof, could provide just the kind of security that many Americans are now looking for. But can a phone really block an organization like the NSA?

Silent Circle, an encryptions communication firm, and Geeksphone, a project dreamed up by a group of developers, entrepreneurs and ex-special forces operatives, have teamed up to deliver a new smartphone known as the Blackphone. The Blackphone is meant to provide customers with a secure means of communication, without interference from government agencies or hackers. The secure communication is provided by Silent Circle and anyone who purchases the smartphone is provided with a year long subscription to the secure server. Customers also have access to a virtual private network or VPN, secure storage on the cloud, and an anti-theft feature. The phone also contains a feature that allows users to determine exactly what kind of data apps can obtain through their phones. Aside from the extra security features, the Blackphone is also on par with other popular smartphones such as the iPhone or Android phones in terms of storage space, battery life, and features.

Although the phone is being marketed as a secure way to avoid theft and government intrusion, nothing is ever completely secure. The Blackphone does provide an extra layer of protection against those looking to access the owner’s information, but the company has stated that the technology is not NSA-proof, and any government agencies looking to obtain access to phone records or data could get them if they were truly determined. Despite all efforts to completely block out hackers, the NSA or other government agencies, there are flaws in the system that can be exploited with the proper time and motivation. There have also been concerns that a phone such as this may make customers more susceptible to attacks as the extra security makes it seem as though they have something to hide.

The Blackphone debuted in February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and has been drawing significant attention since its release. The phone currently costs $629, which includes subscriptions to Silent Circle, encrypted cloud storage, and various security features that aren’t available on other smartphones. In light of the recent news about the NSA, a smartphone such as this may appeal to many people; although the phone promises more secure messaging and storage as well as some extra peace of mind, it is not NSA-proof. It is unlikely that any commercially available products will ever be truly unhackable, but products such as the Blackphone make things increasingly difficult for those wishing to access the personal files of others.

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