Silent Circle launches version 2 of secure Blackphone

The Swiss security firm Silent Circle today released the new edition of its smartphone that aims to help people control what info they share about themselves online.

The Blackphone 2 – priced at £525 – boasts its own Android-based operating system named Silent OS which enables people to fine-tune what each app, service and site can know about them through the mobile phone's security centre.

The launch comes as Blackberry readies an Android phone named ‘Priv' which also has improved privacy features, but has already been widely criticised as being ‘behind the times'.

The nitty-gritty

The most interesting feature of the Silent OS is the use of the SRTP and ZRTP protocols to provide encryption, message authentication and replay protection to the data being sent and received on the phone.

The phone's security centre has been designed to allow the user to fine tune individual app permissions so that the level of data access each app receives is not banished to an all encompassing ‘allow' or ‘deny' button.

In addition, the phone lets people create separate virtual 'spaces' in which they can set up different permissions for apps depending on whether they are using the phone personally, for work or are letting children play with it.

"At the moment it's often about accepting everything or denying all the app permission requests," said David Puron, head of engineering at Silent Circle. "We wanted it to be more fine-grained than that."

The phone also enables encryption by default, can be wiped remotely and Silent Circle has committed to fix bugs and issue updates within 72 hours of discovery.

In an email to SCMagazineUK.com, Kaspersky commented on the Blackphone as being overkill in the sense that it doesn't allow for a more 'on the go' approach to installing apps, saying: "The ‘Blackphone' 2 is aimed at those who would prefer the security of checking what happens on their device, rather than the flexibility of allowing things ‘on the nod', eg checking permissions asked by an app when it's installed. However most people don't pay attention to the permissions requested, or other aspects of what an app is doing – beyond the immediate functionality for which they installed it".

Looking forward

As smartphone users are now carrying so much private information in their pockets, mainstream phone manufacturers are looking to introduce more security features into their OS's with many Blackphone features being introduced into the next version of the Android operating system ‘Marshmallow'.

This comes at a time when the National Cyber Security Programme has launched a national campaign encouraging  users to be more ‘cyber street-wise'.