back to article CEO pleads guilty of conspiring with drug cartels to sell them stealthy Blackberrys

The CEO of a company that took Blackberry phones, stripped them of their cameras, microphones and GPS and then installed encryption software in order to create a secure phone, has pleaded guilty to conspiring with drug cartels. Vincent Ramos of Phantom Secure was arrested back in March following an FBI investigation in which …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem is getting a foot in the door

    If you built a secure phone for $1000/month and drug dealers just found you and bought your phone/service, it would be difficult for the feds to get you. You might not even know they did it.

    But that's obviously not what happens, they'd have to already know you to be willing to sign up for your service and feel confident it was as secure as you promise (i.e. they know where you live - where all your family lives) so the guys doing this are obviously already connected to the drug world before they enter this business.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Possible, but not required.

      If you market a secure phone and guarantee that nobody will be able to snoop, you will naturally attract criminals who appreciate that sort of service.

      And I think that, at that level, making a difference between high-flyers in criminal activities and high-flyers that don't want to be caught cheating may not be all that easy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        How do you guarantee nobody will be able to snoop? Even big companies often fail at this, and well-known 'privacy' apps like Telegram are leaking IPs. They're supposed to believe some random nobody because you sell the service for $1000/month?

        How can a drug lord trust your guarantee that you don't have a backdoor, that you won't work with the feds when presented with a warrant, or work with a competing drug lord when offered a little cash? Or that you aren't a simply a CIA/DEA front from day one?

        Even if you originally have a perfectly secure product, you are selling them phones all the time, so you can compromise things even years after you start out. Drug lord wants the latest hardware (with gold plating and diamond encrusting, natch) so you have to modify/ship him new hardware, which you can compromise thanks to pressure from the feds or because his competition gave you a suitcase filled with $1 million in cash (or gave you an empty suitcase and said "if you don't, the remains of your daughter will be delivered to you in this suitcase")

        That's why I think you'd have to be on the inside from the start, so they already trust you before you set up shop.

        1. Gordan

          "Even big companies often fail at this"

          You seem to be unaware that competence and quality are inversely proportional to the size of the company.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "How can a drug lord trust your guarantee "

          because they use everyone you might love as collateral. Not to mention the threat of getting your own skin pealed off over days is a strong influencer. There is no safe place to hide.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Which again implies that you have a pre-existing relationship with the drug lord. Do you think they are going to do a web search on "secure phones", then find out who owns the company, find out where their family lives etc.?

  2. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Well one thing we can ascertain from the story is that It seems the feds don't need to have backdoors in encryption to be able to catch the bad guys after all.

    1. Phil Kingston

      Just some good-ol' fashioned policing.

      Now if only they could pass on their knowledge to those hastily drafting a crazy encryption bill in Australia.

  3. Jay Lenovo

    Pimp my phone

    They see me phonin',

    They hatin'

    Patrollin' and tryna catch me phonin' dirty

  4. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    Remember, it's ain't "illegal" until you get caught.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Ramos also handed over server licenses"

    Hey boss, forget the gold coins and the Lamborghini - we just hauled in four copies of Windows Server 2016 and a pack of CALs!

  6. Crisp

    Selling weapons grade encryption to criminals

    Their mistake there was encroaching on government business!

  7. OveS

    "stripped them of their cameras, microphones and GPS"

    How do you use a telephone without a microphone?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > How do you use a telephone without a microphone?

      Presumably you write your messages in text and encrypt them with PGP, which the article said had been installed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I don't think voice control on hands free to send txt msgs was a feature.

      I'm not sure that voice calls would be helpful either.

      They were selling a "feds proof" mobile...not a working Blackberry...not that that seems to be Blackberry's goal either these days.

    3. Crucial Decimal

      Plug in your own mic/headset.

  8. elregviewer

    what was he thinking

    Why did they not just send it all through tor. His cartel bosses ain't gonna be happy at the pigs having access to their records.

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