It all started with Edward Snowden’s revelations… People began worrying about who might be spying on them.
As my colleague Greg Miller discussed, cyber attacks have put everyone – from governments and corporations to individuals – on high alert.
It seems the need for digital security has never been higher.
Perhaps that’s why a secretive firm now based in Switzerland, Silent Circle, is having so much success with its Blackphone, an encrypted smartphone.
What Exactly Is the Blackphone?
Silent Circle developed the Blackphone in collaboration with the Spanish smartphone company GeeksPhone.
The company’s first model, released last July, sold out within weeks.
That would impress even Apple Inc. (AAPL). Speaking of which, the CEO of Silent Circle, Mike Janke, used to be a chess partner of Steve Jobs.
The other co-founders of the firm are Phil Zimmermann, inventor of the PGP encryption program, and Jon Callas, who designed the security for Apple iOS.
Silent Circle clearly has top talent.
And even more impressive is the fact that 41 of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies are now clients. Silent Circle even supplies the FBI with phones.
And now the Blackphone 2, released in September, is again selling briskly at $799 each.
The Blackphone 2 is basically a smartphone that runs on Google (GOOGL) Android, but is completely encrypted. The company calls its software Silent OS, which replaces PrivatOS.
It’s being advertised as the way to stop snooping from hackers and government spies. And it’s said to be secure and private. So even if the device is compromised, its user’s data cannot be read.
Even if it isn’t totally impenetrable, it’s a huge improvement from the sieve that is the Google Android system. After all, Android is an open system.
Several of the features instill confidence about security and privacy.
Calls and messages are encrypted from end to end. In other words, only the participants have access. But they both have to have Blackphones or the phone is wide open.
The phone’s “security center” allows the user to choose what information, if any, to share with each and every app. And there’s even the ability to lock or wipe devices.
The Blackphone 2 also has separate “Spaces” so the user can set up virtual phone environments. This allows you to have phones with differing security settings on the same device. So you could have a “normal” phone and a “super-secret” phone in the same device. (Just what Hillary Clinton needed when she was Secretary of State!)
The new Blackphone also allows users to turn off their Wi-Fi setting. That will stop random connections to unsecure Wi-Fi locations.
The company even moved to Switzerland from the United States last year. That way the secretive federal court, FISA, can’t order the company to hand over customer data. Although the company can deactivate a phone if law enforcement requests it.
Unlike the original Blackphone, this new version does integrate with Google’s Android for Work program. And there’s support for Google Play, too.
Is Blackberry Still in Play?
Although it’s currently the most prominent, Silent Circle isn’t the only company playing in this sector.
In September, BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY) finally stepped from behind the curtain. Its CEO John Chen said there would be a secure Android-powered BlackBerry Priv coming out soon.
BlackBerry was once the undisputed king of secure phones. Rarely did someone complain about having their BlackBerry hacked.
But its share of the smartphone market dwindled from 20% in 2009 to a mere 0.5% in 2014. It remains to be seen whether the company can rebound.
After all, phones like the Blackphone 2 are still very much a niche market.
Maybe it will become more mainstream if Apple decides to enter the market in the future. But only time will tell.
In the meantime, the Blackphone 2 is a good option for any of you spies out there.