Blackphone 2: Beat Australia's Data Retention Laws With This Super-Secure Smartphone

Blackphone 2 is Probably the World's Most Secure Smartphone

"While the rest of the market is going one way, with selfie sticks and curved screens, we're going down another, to the heart of problems, sticking with privacy and security," said Silent Circle's Mike Janke at the launch of the company's new secure smartphone, the Blackphone 2. And he's not kidding — though no frills in design, it's kitted out with some serious security features. It's the phone that promises to help you beat the Australian Government's data retention scheme.

First, the hardware. A 5-inch handset with a Full HD screen (protected on the outside by Gorilla Glass 3), it's running on a 64-bit Qualcomm octa-core processor, backed by 3GB of RAM. A removable 3060mAh battery sits inside (with Quick Charge 2.0 features), with microSDXC support for expandable memory. So far, so standard.

It's on the software side where things get a bit more interesting, and that 3GB of RAM shows its worth. Though Running on Android, the phone is equipped with Silent Circle's PrivateOS 1.1, an enterprise-orientated, highly secure layer that sits on top of Google's OS.

This gives users a "Spaces" UI, which keeps the different areas of your mobile life encrypted and compartmentalised. It's essentially a virtualisation system, letting the Blackphone 2 act as separate "devices" within itself, even offering different log-ins running concurrently on each app or service. So, you can set up an Enterprise Space for your work documents and communications, a Personal Space for your private emails and saucy sexting pics, and a Silent Space that's pretty much a phone-wide version of Chrome's "Incognito Mode".

Each space can be filled with the "Silent Suite" apps, whose functions are pretty self explanatory; Silent Text, Silent Contacts and Silent Phone, each keeping your communications encrypted and isolated from each other. The phone will also come equipped with the Silent Store, the world's first-privacy and security orientated app store.

Those looking to use the phone for conference calling will benefit also from the new Silent Meeting function. This lets you set up secure conference calls with as many as 50 participants, offering scheduling and invitation tools too. Providing all users are using the Silent Meeting feature, there's no need for annoying log-in passwords, with the encryption and security being handled behind the scenes.

"We're replacing BlackBerry, we don't care that BlackBerry's CEO is throwing nasty things about us onto Twitter. We're going to dominate them," said Silent Circle security specialist (and former Navy Seal) Mike Janke at today's launch. While that's not a massive claim to make with BlackBerry on the backfoot, if the Blackphone 2 can live up to its secure claims, it will certainly fill a hole left by BlackBerry's disappointing touchscreen smartphones.

Due out in the summer, the Blackphone 2 is expected to retail at $US629.

So what does Silent Circle mean when it says it can best data retention? Well, the data retention plan relies on collecting metadata like call times, locations and text message info. Silent Circle says it doesn't produce any of that based on the way PrivatOS communicates with other devices.

Here's an example: type in the name of someone you want on your Circle, and the phone will create a personal intranet between the two of you. It performs a few security handshakes and destroys the keys so nobody else can see it. It becomes a closed loop of phones communicating via text using the data network. While metadata is created, it's an anonymised data session which "looks like white noise" when law enforcement agencies look at it.

We're told that the agencies can't tell whether or not it was a text message sent or whether it was Netflix or general internet browsing going across the network. It creates no cellular metadata as a result of voice or text conversations. Nifty.

Gizmodo Australia understands the technology has already been demonstrated to the Queensland Police Service, who are simultaneously excited about the operational possibilities of such a service, but also frightened about what might happen if the so-called "bad guys" get their hands on a phone they can't track.

We understand the NSW Police is also looking at the devices themselves.

If it's encryption that has the cops freaked, you know it's legit.


Blackphone 2 is Probably the World's Most Secure Smartphone

Comments

    I hate to be a party pooper, but: you are required, by law, to provide any assistance necessary to decrypt your data.

    It solves the corporate problem of a phone left at the pub causing a world of pain, but it certainly won't protect you from the law. If they have suspicions about you, and after investigating find ou are encrypting all your traffic, that just makes the want to get physical access to your devices that much stronger.

    Last edited 03/03/15 11:33 am

      Self-Incrimination laws and all that -
      http://www.alrc.gov.au/publications/15.%20Privilege%3A%20Other%20Privileges/privilege-respect-self-incrimination-other-proceedings

      Yes but for us law abiding citizens that just don't what them to collect information about us and build an online profile it would work just fine.

      By the sounds of the description, encryption keys are automatically generated and discarded. You couldn't help law enforcement decrypt the data even if you wanted to, you don't have the information to do it.

      Which is a bit moot anyway, because police can only require you to aid in decryption with a magistrate's order, which they're not going to get without reasonable suspicion. Because of the encryption, that suspicion isn't going to be able to come from activity metadata. This effectively shields your average user from unjustified government spying.

      If you forget your password (happens often enough) then the law doesnt apply

      Say the cops catch a bad guy and seize his special phone, for argument's sake.

      You do have to provide passwords, in some circumstances, but I doubt that will prove helpful to overcoming past conversations where no logs have been kept and the data retention plan has collected mush. Unscrambling the egg just won't prove possible and all the other criminal parties in the circle will simply be undetected.

    Beat the data retention laws by: not making any phone calls, no SMS, no use of anything like maps, youtube etc. Basically, don't use your phone. Unless everyone you want to contact has this exact same phone as you.

    Seems a bit exaggerated =D

      You can purchase a subscription from them that makes ALL of your calls to anyone encrypted.

        Won't the AFP just target people with a subscription then?

      That's how criminal syndicates operate. The good ones, anyway.

      It would be a major pain for ordinary folk going about their mundane business.

    Normally I'd agree with you jj, but not in this instance. If enough people use encryption as a matter of course (which is completely legal), then it will no longer be an indication of possible criminal activity. If that's the case, then simply using encryption is not sufficient for a police officer to have reasonable suspicion. Furthermore, this type of device is not just helping to protect a person from government surveillance. It (like any form of encryption) offers layers of protection against hackers also.

    ..but also frightened about what might happen if the so-called “bad guys” get their hands on a phone they can’t track.

    Really? WTF did they think would happen?

    If this phone had come out 15 months ago I would have bought it in a heartbeat instead of the Nexus 5. I'll be looking to get this as my next phone (which by that time they should have a newer model out I'd suspect).

    I didn't want to put a profile picture or pictures of my kids up on my University 'blog' that I had to create as part of a course I am taking.
    I explained that I ike to keep my family life private.
    I was told by the lecturer that I was 'going against the current of social culture' and that wanting that level of privacy was 'anti social' and could be seen as 'perverse', and would make people suspicious of me. The others in the course pretty much agreed with that sentiment.
    Am I really ant-social for not wanting strangers to see pictures of my kids?

      Lecturers should be made to work 50% of their time in industry, students would be much more employable when taught real world skills.

    "Am I really ant-social for not wanting strangers to see pictures of my kids?"

    Nope.

    Wait, what? I thought meta data was an envelope and the contents of the letter would remain private. So Tony lied to us ... again! If only Malcolm was man enough to admit fibre to the premises was way better, he'd be king of the castle by now.

    Meh Aus government just ban it from coming into Australia.

    Man I want one of these, but that's a hefty price tag.

    I have a "Blackphone 1" which I pre-ordered on day one of pre-sales and eagerly awaited the arrival of the future delivery date. By a twist of logistics and development delays with the software that was designed for the US/EU phones, I became one of the first "paying customers" in the world to get my hands on a blackphone - and it had barely been powered on 5 minutes before curiosity got the better of me and I began pulling it apart at every possible level and trying to work out everything about it.

    To be frank - the first release blackphone 1 (as a complete package, software and hardware) was a complete disappointment to put it nicely. My biggest gripe is the physical platform that the handset is packaged in. I might be wrong, but I am pretty sure that the external casing is an off the shelf generic phone design which was selected for the fact that they were either already sitting in a warehouse in china ready to go as a cheap and available fast track solution for anyone who willing to roll with a phone that had specifications on par with a Nokia 510.

    It seemed as if they had been in such a desperate hurry to get the phones out on sale and in the market that they completely compromised on the physical phone/handset quality - to such a level in fact, that I had serious concerns as to whether there would be enough future interest in it to keep the rather admirable blackphone concept alive and in business long enough to see a second more respectable 2.0 version released.

    The second gripe is the OS... I'm referring to the original release version v1.0 for the following: Their custom designed secure android operating system model that they call "PrivateOS" sucked teh wang badly and whilst I'm not disputing that the overall security of the operating system met up to their claims in its "Straight out of the box as supplied with no other apps installed" version, it was about as effectively useful as tits on a bull as far as its design purpose as a "Smartphone" went. Basically, you could send sms/mms via standard android messenger, make/receive calls via the standard phone dialer and add up how many times you wanted to throw it to the ground and burn it with fire on the standard android calculator every time the touch screen calibration went totally bezerk, which meant that the only way to unlock the phone's pin code was to turn it off and try to remain positive while it slowly rebooted while your by now very cynical mates laughed their ass off at you for purchasing a phone that was pretty much selling itself as a fair piece of shit that had demonstrated very few redeeming features so far.

    Basically there was a pretty straight forward choice to make - leave the phone completely factory standard with no third party applications or software loaded, or risk potentially compromising its security entirely with the venerability of the decrypted and unlocked OS creating a considerably serious area of risk - especially if the owner wasn't quite the switched on privacy/security/paranoid type who maintained good OPCON as well. Oh and did I mention, it was as buggy as a locust plague.

    It lacked the serious in depth privacy settings controls that allow a user to really get into the nitty gritty of what the applications are permitted to do and not do. When an off the shelf custom ROM like Cynagenmod provides more user defined privacy control than the "state of the art" blackphone that was getting hailed as to security like it was the second coming of Jesus, then you can't be blamed for feeling a little disappointed, if not just plain confused.

    This post is epic. I might continue with my thoughts on the updated OS which is now the current version - PrivateOS 1.2 - A huge improvement, still not good enough to make me switch back to it from my own custom build platform which runs on the platform of a much more capable and spec'd phone (Samsung GS5) - which unlike the blackphone, can do things like snap photo's which don't look like I used a solar powered calculator to take them.

    Can someone PLEASE tell me where I can buy the Blackphone 2 as the Silent Circle website says they don't ship to Australia?

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