Is any phone immune from snooping by the National Security Agency?
"Nothing is NSA-proof," said David Kennedy, CEO of TrustedSec and a former hacking trainer for the agency. "But the Blackphone is a huge improvement [over] existing devices out there."
Introduced this week at the World Mobile Congress, the Blackphone looks like a standard smartphone but comes with a custom Android operating system called PrivatOS. It has encrypted features and communications in an effort to offer a high level of privacy protection.
"This is a big step forward and something that the regular consumer who is concerned about security can use," Kennedy said. "It's simple yet allows you to customize on how secure you really want to be."
Consumers have two choices, depending on their needs: They can buy the device itself, made by Android phonemaker Geeksphone, or buy the suite of apps developed by Silent Circle.
The device costs about $629 and is secure from the encrypted hardware. The suite of apps will protect a consumer's phone communications and data. Whichever route is chosen, the texts, phone and video calls, and file transfers, work only with another Blackphone user or with someone with the Silent Circle apps.
Kennedy has pre-ordered his Blackphone, but perhaps for an unexpected reason.
"I'm a hacker by nature," he said. "So I like breaking into technology and toys."
"When you come out with a new product like this and you redesign an entire operating system and put encryption on top of phone calls, there's bound to be security flaws and ... issues," Kennedy said. "I'm going to ... disassemble [it] and try to find out what exposures there are really out there so I can contact Blackphone [and] they can fix it in future releases."
—By Christina Medici Scolaro