New encrypted smartphone set for unveiling | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 24.02.2014
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New encrypted smartphone set for unveiling

Blackphone, a new mobile device aims to give users more security to protect them from the snooping eyes of hackers and digital spies. But can it really guarantee the security of its users?

Blackphone, a new encrypted smartphone, is set to be launched at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday (24.02.2014). The phone, which was developed by secure communications firm Silent Circle and manufacturer Geeksphone, aims to help protect users from nosy governments, industry rivals and hackers.

The Blackphone could help fill a hole in the market that was made obvious by last year's revelations that the US National Security Agency had access to the telephone data of millions of people around the world. But Silent Circle had been working on the phone before the revelations, its CEO Mike Janke told news agency AFP.

What does security go for these days?

"We did this because there was a problem that was not being solved: secure communications," he said in an interview with the news agency.

Silent Circle has not released any information regarding the price for the blackphone, but CEO Janke has said that it will cost less than the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5S while retaining the functions and usability of such devices. And with servers located in Switzerland, the new more secure smartphone could do well among consumers who may now prefer services from companies that do not store data in the US.

Secure but not 'NSA-proof'

On Friday (21.02.2014), Apple released a statement saying that a major flaw in its mobile device operating system, iOS, could allow hackers to tap into email and other communications that are encrypted. At least 85 percent of smartphone users check their email on their mobile devices, according to a survey by Internet giant Google.

And it's not just the average smartphone user who is at risk; secure government systems continue to be at risk. The US National Security Agency has switched to monitoring officials close to Chancellor Angela Merkel, including Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, according to reports by Germany's Bild am Sonntag.

Is there such a thing as a "secure" phone? The fact is that despite potentially providing the smartphone user with more security, blackphone is also likely to be flawed, like other systems.

On its website, the company has warned that the phone is not "NSA-proof."

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