There is almost nothing that can not be hacked. At a time of revelations about government surveillance programs and an almost uninterrupted flow of intrusions, computer attacks that result in massive flight data, it is perhaps something to be legitimately paranoid. The intelligence services and hackers often make their way into the most popular devices. It is this trend that surfs the Swiss firm whose Silent Circle secure phone is supposed to make this almost impossible.
The Blackphone 2, second brand smartphone, capitalizes on the success of the previous model by enhancing yet protection systems without compromising on the features that many would like to have in a modern smartphone. The Blackphone 2 is available in the US for $ 800 and Europe 540 pounds (excluding taxes) or 730 euros (excluding taxes).
Establish protection systems for its activities line is rarely easy. Most applications and services devolved to this end are already old. Take for example Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) to encrypt emails. He has over twenty years and has been designed in an era where accessibility and ease of use were not included. The Silent Circle Blackphone 2 seeks to simplify this safe approach to the public it targets, namely professionals and users concerned about their privacy. But is this Blackphone 2 invulnerable? No, and that’s also not what it claims as stressed Javier Aguera, the scientific director of Silent Circle. But parrying attacks to commonly used by hackers or espionage services and securing data, Blackphone 2 goes much further than any other smartphone on the market.
Security in the heart
The Blackphone 2 works like any Android smartphone, security and more. Its operating system, OS Silent, is a version “enhanced” Android 5.1.1 Lollipop adding multiple layers of security to the terminal. This new version of the OS integrates, for the first time, Google services such as Gmail, Drive and even access to the Google Play store that can download all third-party applications of their choice. This mix, however perplexing. We know that many applications and services include security vulnerabilities and are intended to collect data for advertising purposes. So how Google services that collect a package of personal information, can they coexist with a smartphone whose primary purpose is confidentiality?
The key to success of Blackphone 2 system is its “umbrella” . A system based on an advanced control inflow / outflow in layers and authorization levels, all without compromising ease of use.
The Security Center, a central element of the device, displays a dual purpose. On the one hand, it allows to separate and compartmentalize applications and services. On the other hand, it offers a comprehensive set of controls. These come in addition, and above, parameters and settings for standard smartphone propose a simplified approach and apprehension.
There are also the “Spaces” feature. It enables to create user profiles completely isolated from each other. Like user profiles on a computer, this feature offers many settings to customize application settings, operation, network connection and of course create a password for the home screen. This confinement assures that in case of installing a malicious or intrusive application, it can not communicate outside the space in which it is located. You can create a space specifically dedicated to an application in which you do not fully trust. For example, if you do not appreciate how Google data collection, you can create an independent space without Google applications. A similar approach to privacy mode or incognito in an Internet browser but goes beyond.
Without instruction manual and instructions step by step, we took some time to understand the full potential of these “areas”. Do not hesitate to try and fumble around without fear of losing or making mistakes. The interface generally proves to be simple to grasp. Easily moving from one space to another from the lock screen or pop-up menu, accessible from the top of the screen.
Silent Circle defines the basic settings for it considers to be the minimum level of security and privacy. However, the company offers a wide latitude of customization and choice in the settings. Silent Phone, home audio communications application, video and textual encrypted, the team Blackphone 2. It coexists with the original Android application, which leaves the choice of whether or not to encrypt calls and SMS.
The Blackphone 2 accepts Android applications like any other smartphone. Although they are inspected for the presence of malicious software and other traps, applications unfortunately remain the Achilles heel on Android (and other operating systems). They have too often seek access permissions to data that may have nothing to do with their main function. If it refuses to grant such access, the application may not function. The Blackphone 2 is based on a technique that bypasses this obstacle. It intercepts and blocks requests for access to personal data and lets the user decide what attitude to take.
The Blackphone 2 also integrates invisible protection that encrypts memory from the first set of smartphone service. Unable to access data without the right password. The iPhone has a similar system but on the side of Android, only Nexus devices offer this type of encryption by default.
But the most crucial safety mechanism, regardless of the type of appliance still (by far) fixing bugs and dissemination of updates. Silent Circle established a very responsive policy in this area to address security vulnerabilities as soon as they appear. The company is working with Google and has set up its own reward program for research and detection of bugs.
“ Any vulnerability made public will be processed within 72 hours ,” says David Puron, vice president of engineering Blackphone. In practice, this translates into an average of one week between the revelation of the existence of a bug, its correction and deployment of the update.
When discussing security and smartphones, one name immediately comes to mind: BlackBerry. Despite its decline, the brand keeps the trust of large enterprises and governments through its security certifications. Silent Circle The company says it is working to obtain certifications such government and military level, but do not communicate on the project’s progress. This leaves the field open to other competitors like Samsung smartphones compatible with the security platform and certain Knox iPhone
A lack can be prohibitive.: the absence of encrypted email. The Blackphone 2 uses Google Apps, Android for Work, Microsoft Exchange and other messaging services. But Silent Circle renounced offer encryption because of the legal problems this might raise, like what happened with lavabit, mail service praised by Edward Snowden. That said, one can find e-mail applications on the store encrypted online Silent Store. One area where BlackBerry retains an advantage. The arrival of the first Android smartphone equipped with its BlackBerry signed security platform could turn in favor of the Canadian brand. Silent Circle highlights the fact that it has absolutely no access to user data, unlike BlackBerry, which in the recent past, has provided partial access to the communications of its customers to some governments.
“Almost all the products we design are such that it is impossible to play any role, even should we be legally obliged” says Javier Aguera.
Design and Performance
The design, like security, has been the subject of much attention. The Blackphone 2 to its name with its fully black finish. It is slightly larger than its predecessor with a diagonal of 5.5 inches. Its size and definition of 1920 x 1080 pixels are identical to those of the iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus. Its rounded corners and textured strapping facilitate the handling despite its rather large size. However, the glossy coating is a magnet for fingerprints.
The configuration of Blackphone 2 revolves around a Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC heart eightfold 615 to 1, 7 GHz with 3 GB of memory (RAM). This is down compared to the Snapdragon 800 Series found on the latest and models in this price range. If you want to play video games, this smartphone is anyway not for you.
The Blackphone embeds 32GB of storage that can be expanded with a micro SD memory card. Photo / video sensor with a resolution of 13 megapixels delivers a satisfactory image quality. The Blackphone 2 also features a 5 megapixel front camera for video calls. Wi-Fi uses the latest standard dated, ac, and remains compatible with previous a / b / g / n.
In our tests under real conditions the Blackphone two held a good day with use ranging from moderate to intensive thanks to its 3060 mAh battery. We are continuing our autonomy tests on video looping and will update this article with the results.
The Blackphone 2 is a stylish smartphone, full of potential, which offers a beautiful array of settings to protect its communications and data. For now, there is no market other Android phone that responds to this type of concern for individuals or SOHO / SME concerned about their safety. The only exception remains BlackBerry that retains an advantage at least on paper. For businesses, the Blackphone 2 is compatible with mobile devices management (MDM) like Citrix or Soti. The Blackphone 2 also turns out a better smartphone than its predecessor, with a larger screen and full access to Google Play. This means you will not need a second phone to your multimedia entertainment (video games, music, video …). Regarding security, the phone has been tested as much as possible in relation to the multiple ways in which it could be attacked, which already far exceeds the average level of other Android smartphones. In terms of confidentiality, Blackphone 2 is responsible for the stewardship once the settings and customization made. It’s a winning combination. The big unknown is whether this smartphone can succeed where BlackBerry has not managed to stay … But security is an area that seems to come back into fashion.