back to article The truth about Silent Circle's super-secure, hyper-privacy phones: No one's buying them

It seems that the Blackphone, the handset created by Silent Circle and Spanish firm Geeksphone, isn't as popular as its makers would like. Geeksphone has sued [PDF] its erstwhile partner for $5m in a New York court, claiming that disappointing hardware sales have crippled the partnership and left the Switzerland-based Silent …

  1. ecarlseen

    It made no sense in the first place

    The Android OS itself has provided an endless stream of exploitable bugs, and it's not like Silent Circle was going to audit and harden that code base to the point where the phone itself was uncrackable - not to mention the massive resources required to stay on top of updates. As bad as Google and even its large OEMs have been, it's hard to say how Silent Circle could be anything other than worse without an enormous user base (at least Samsung Galaxy size).

    A phone that's more secure than mainstream IOS / Android is probably impractical at this point, because the device itself is now just the center of an ecosystem of apps. The only company with a prayer of getting any traction there is Microsoft and they seem determined to commit suicide instead. For anyone smaller, the window is pretty much closed unless they can pull off a fully sandboxed emulation layer (like Android as a hypervisor guest, which would be awesome).

  2. Richie 1

    This is a shame

    For people wanting a phone from a company that cares about security, the choices over the last few years have been Silent Circle, Jolla, maybe Blackberry. & all three of those are on the ropes financially.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is a shame

      >" the choices over the last few years have been Silent Circle, Jolla, maybe Blackberry. & all three of those are on the ropes financially."

      If any of those were really secure phones, they'd have been raided like Ennetcom were. Blackberry, for example, their master key was held by the Canadian Mounties and used for bulk interception.

      As long as we have a security apparatus that sets the agenda in secret and with impunity, its a wild west, and you're on your own.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Silicon valley

    Whether the TV (which looks humorously accurate) or real life, there seems to be a way of doing business these days that says "burn loads of money to look good, have lots of staff and have nice offices" ... what budget for tech?

    But honestly i am not surprised they failed, the last phone to be successfully launched in the west was the iPhone, since then every successful phone has been launched in Asia... over here, there isn't a peep out of Silent Circle (guess it lived up to it's name).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "who has rejoined Apple for the third time"

    How to experiment and test new products at someone's else expenses?

  5. 0laf

    It has the performance of a £100 phone, the security of a £500 Blackberry all for the bargain price of £700.

    Can't understand why no one bought them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Agreed. There is a market for this phone but on paper it's not worth the money.

      They would be better off partnering with OnePlus or another similar company and taking their already solid value phones and hardening them.

      Truth be told I'm only concerned about skiddies in coffee shops pwning me with droidsheep and interceptor-ng and those are pretty easy to defend against with an SSH tunnel.

      Signal is sufficient for encrypting texts and (never thought I'd say this) WhatsApp seems to sufficient for encrypting IM.

      Anything sensitive I store on an encrypted OTG thumb drive.

      As for malware. Malware bytes has a reasonable android app (as long as you turn off real-time scanning unless battery life isn't a concern).

      With that I can install an app, run a quick scan and have the crap cleared out (if there is any).

      I'm starting to wonder if the whole Android Malware-geddon talk is just a concept rather than a reality because as far as I can tell (with random packet auditing, malware scans and general CVE awareness) I've never been infected. Nor has anyone I know personally.

      The only people I ever hear of actually being infected are the mid-range crowd using 'bargain' Android devices with strange versions of Android.

      Not even the pikey bottom end users get hit that often. Probably because their phones are so under powered and starved for storage space the whole process is rendered impractical.

      1. 0laf

        I suspect a bit like any home OS, if you patch it a best you can, run some basic anti-nasty stuff and most importantly not constantly download shite from everywhere and anywhere you probably won't get hit by much if anything.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's not the only problem Silent Circle have IMHO

    Honestly, would you buy security solutions from a US company right now?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    1. elDog

      Re: Sumion?

      Is it just me? Or does some random AC posting some random combination of letters pointing to a youtube link represent an incredible "do not click here"? Who's pushing all this shite about using videos to tell us how to wank off? I want a nice plain-text (ASCII will do) explanation of why I should expose my underparts to google/etc/youtube.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sumion?

        I want a nice plain-text (ASCII will do) explanation of why I should expose my underparts to google/etc/youtube.

        Plus 90% of those explanations require you to sit through an exceedingly cumbersome 30 minutes of tedium to get information that in printed form would not even fill an A4 when double spaced, and I could have flash-read that in a few seconds.

        That's the main reason why I exclude anything on Youtube if I'm trying to search for solutions on the web. Time is too precious to waste on Youtubing amateurs.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On top of the comments already posted

    it struck me as a pretty trivial way to ruin them - like, say, a CIA op they could do in their sleep - make a few massive bogus orders. Assuming you believed the target to be hopelessly naive - which, apparently they are!

    And, personally, they're not the kind of people I'd trust to make a security tool that ought to be about as indispensable (except in the dUK - we have CCTV instead) as a gun.

    So, whether the advance orders came from some of their fellow naifs, or a Black Op, I think they were probably doing us a favour.

  9. jason 7

    How about just...

    ...a Nokia 6310 with a 1024bit encryption and voice scrambler?

  10. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

    Assuming someone really could make a hardened phone

    It still has to be priced competitively.

    How much more will a significant number of people pay for a truly hardened phone over the price of an encrypted iPhone? Probably not a whole lot.

    My guess, maybe as much as 20% more.

    Why? Because there are not enough drug dealers, military and other types who are truly in need of a hardened "money isn't a consideration" phone rather than a "Apple level" encrypted phone, to make a truly hardened phone economically viable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Assuming someone really could make a hardened phone

      If I were Apple, I would assimilate Silent Circle's technology into a new Android Borg Business Unit and then sell it as an extra pricey Iphone. Go talk to Mr Cook guys, coz they know how to sell expensive, over-priced hardware. You could learn many things. Perhaps import Chinese slave laborers into Switzerland to help build them. Let's call it ... wait a minute ... what about Black Current ?

      I'll take a 1 % commission on total sales for this brilliant idea. You are welcome.

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