Story 2015-03-03 47JJ Blackphone 2: improved focus on security

Blackphone 2: improved focus on security

in mobile on (#47JJ)
story image"Blackphone 2 caters to the enterprise, the security-minded and the paranoid" they say, and these days, that is a slogan that just might catch your attention. It caught mine.
While much of the news coming out of MWC 2015 has been dominated by Microsoft's Lumia 640, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, and tablets from Sony, there's always room for something a little different. Following on from the security-focused Blackphone, Silent Circle used the Barcelona event to announce the follow-up -- the Blackphone 2. The privacy-centric company has been working on the "world's first enterprise privacy platform" for some time now and the second generation Blackphone. As you would expect, there's a faster processor than before -- an 8-core beast -- as well as an upgraded 3GB RAM, a larger 5.5 inch screen and a bigger battery than before. Blackphone 2 has a $600 price tag and will be unleashed in July.
I might not be the only one frustrated with the Android-vs-Apple smartphone duopoly, and I'm sure I'm not the only one annoyed with the feeling that my phone was rooted since the moment I took it out of the box. Here's wishing good fortune to an alternative that makes security and privacy paramount.
Reply 12 comments

Samsung phones are not rooted OOTB (Score: 1)

by on 2015-03-03 21:44 (#47Q4)

That is the problem. My hardware. My device. Regardless of ease of rooting these days I prefer root access when it is handed over. Throw in the beefed up security and these guys meet a personal and business need. If they can provide excellent enterprise level device controls the money will roll in.

Re: Samsung phones are not rooted OOTB (Score: 1)

by on 2015-03-04 12:20 (#48YH)

The average user does not know what root access is and does not need it. I don't think that you or most of us here are average users. Hence, it does not make sense to enable root access on all handsets but it makes sense to make it easily obtained if the advanced user wishes to do so.

Re: Samsung phones are not rooted OOTB (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2015-03-04 12:26 (#48YK)

What I meant by that sentence is, "I feel like others have rooted my phone from the moment I first use it." The fact that Android is so closely tied into Google, has that miserable app permissions system that allow devs to simply ask for one more permission each round until they rule the world mwah ha ha ha, and is probably phoning home more than you know, kind of freaks me out.

Android is not consumer-focused, it's enterprise focused. And those enterprises need your data, your ad-watching-eyeballs, and your credit card to stay in business. Fuck that, I just want pocket computing.

Re: Samsung phones are not rooted OOTB (Score: 1)

by on 2015-03-04 14:08 (#4916)

AOSP or even Replicant is probably what you want then. You can get android without google or any other company involved, if you wish.

Re: Samsung phones are not rooted OOTB (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2015-03-04 16:43 (#49BC)

I mostly liked the old Android app permission system, until they removed network access as a component. Where else do you get a nice list of the things an app is allowed to do? Certainly not on Linux/BSD unless you audit the source, yourself, or else install a carefully crafted SELinux policy for each. And when there are multiple apps that do the same task (say: solitaire) you can shop-around, until you find one that requests the fewest permissions.

An app update wants new permissions??? Just decline and keep using the old one. Or if you want to try it, just backup your apps before upgrading, and reinstall the old one if the new version has undesirable changes.

Unfortunately the most recent revamp REMEMBERS that you (perhaps accidentally) accepted the new permissions of the app update, and will reinstall it without any extra prompting, requiring you to clear the Play Store's app data before rolling-back.

I'm not so sure Cyanogen's system of allowing users to limit permissions would work on a larger scale... App developers would start including unit tests to see if they actually have each permission up and working, and if not, the app just exits.

Re: Samsung phones are not rooted OOTB (Score: 1)

by on 2015-03-09 22:29 (#4KN4)

Have a look at the permissions granted to default apps preloaded with the phone that can not be uninstalled.

App name: S Memo
App function: Notepad for android
App Permissions:
  • read phone status and identity
  • edit your text messages
  • read your text messages
  • record audio
  • precise location
  • modify your contacts
  • read your contacts
  • add or modify calendar events and send emails to guests without host's knowledge
  • read calendar events plus confidential information
  • modify or delete the contents of your USB storage
  • add or remove accounts
  • create accounts and set passwords
  • find accounts on the device
  • use accounts on the device
  • modify secure system settings
  • control near field communication
  • full network access
  • view network connections
  • view wi-fi connections
  • close other apps
  • reorder running apps
  • retrieve running apps
  • run at startup
  • prevent phone from sleeping
  • read sync settings
  • read sync statistics
  • toggle sync on and off
  • modify system settings
  • test access to protected storage
Seriously, WTF? This is an application to write notes and save the results as a file. Why would hackers bother trying to crack the operating system when they just need to find a flaw in S Memo?
Why does a note taking application require all of these permissions?
Why can't I, as the device owner, disable this application from using these permissions?

Yes. I feel like others have rooted my phone before I even used it. Perhaps a law should be passed compelling hardware and software manufactures to give users root access to all hardware and software when purchased.

Reminds me of what they have done to prevent users from accessing the computers in their car.

Re: Samsung phones are not rooted OOTB (Score: 1)

by on 2015-03-04 16:46 (#49BQ)

I expect many "average" users would like to reduce or eliminate the ads their phone loads and shows, but they don't explicitly know they need root access for that. I commend Firefox for keeping adblock alive as all others have eliminated the option.

FK SYSTEMD (Score: -1, Offtopic)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-03-04 04:37 (#488S)


""When Debian starts pulling the kind of sketchy shit that the Redhat crowd pulled with systemd and Gnome (among other instances), I'll give a little weight to some of the concerns"

That time has arrived.

What does this get? (Score: 1, Informative)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-03-04 04:40 (#488T)

ARM processors often have something similar to Intel Active Management Technology, a seperate processor etc that can backdoor everything.

Not paranoid enough (Score: 1)

by on 2015-03-04 14:06 (#4915)

If something is for the enterprise, its not secure enough for me as an individual for my personal phone. I want a phone with *no* remote wiping even possible. No hooks. I don't want anyone to have control over any aspect of it, other than myself, to the extent that its possible.

Re: Not paranoid enough (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2015-03-06 12:05 (#4D1G)

Doesn't Blackphone let you turn that stuff off?

Re: Not paranoid enough (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2015-03-06 14:39 (#4DB2)

Turn Off, isn't good enough, IMHO. I don't want the code path to even exist. Would you be okay with a government backdoor in your computer, that was shipped on your computer but "turned off" ?