Do All of Us NeeD AN eN­crypteD phoNe?

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - INDULGE -

FIRST LET’S cre­ate the right amount of high-pitch melo­drama re­quired to set the right tone for a col­umn like this. Your phone can be hacked into, mi­cro­phone switched on and your con­ver­sa­tion recorded with­out you hav­ing any idea that it’s be­ing done. Think of all the con­ver­sa­tions you have with peo­ple while your phone is ly­ing right next to you. Think of all the phone con­ver­sa­tions you have in a day. Think of some­one who has record­ings of all of that.

Your data can be sucked out, in­for­ma­tion ac­cessed, your lo­ca­tion dis­cov­ered and all your pho­tos and doc­u­ments ac­cessed – even when your phone is in air­plane mode or turned off (usu­ally done with spy­ware that ac­ti­vates the phone in stealth mode with­out your knowl­edge). Your phone can also be tricked into join­ing a fake rogue net­work that mas­quer­ades as your net­work ser­vice provider. Once your phone joins that net­work, it starts to up­load every­thing on your phone lock, stock and bar­rel. Think of every­thing you have on your phone, all the pass­words, all the data, all your emails, all your mes­sages, all the pri­vate stuff.

Think of some­one sit­ting and read­ing through

With phone tap­ping be­com­ing a big is­sue, this might just be the best so­lu­tion

is an in­fa­mous re­verse engi­neer­ing hacker of con­sumer prod­ucts and his book Hack­ing the Xbox, got him into se­ri­ous trou­ble with Mi­crosoft and an army of other or­gan­i­sa­tions. When these two get se­ri­ous about an en­crypted un­hack­able phone – we should all lis­ten.

HOW WOULD IT WORK?

It’s not re­ally a phone. Right now it’s a pro­to­type for a case for iPhones. It will con­sist of probes and sen­sors that mon­i­tor all sig­nal trans­mis­sion. A dis­play on the out­side of the case along with au­di­ble alarms in­forms users of the phone’s sta­tus. If some­one’s hack­ing in, lis­ten­ing in or even try­ing to – it can in­form you and also cut them off. It can even make you and your phone go ‘dark’ (love that term), essen­tially mak­ing you dis­ap­pear off the grid of any track­ing mech­a­nism. It’s called the in­tro­spec­tion en­gine and is aimed at jour­nal­ists work­ing in con­flict coun­tries, dis­si­dents in au­thor­i­tar­ian coun­tries and av­er­age cit­i­zens who want to pre­vent gov­ern­ments and oth­ers from snoop­ing on their pri­vate lives. Thus, pretty much ev­ery­one!

WHAT ABOUT ANDROID?

If they will have one for iOS, they will ob­vi­ously have one for Android too. But one such phone al­ready ex­ists. It’s called the Black­phone 2 and is claimed to be the world’s most se­cure and pri­vate phone. It has an op­er­at­ing sys­tem called Silent OS that en­crypts every­thing in­clud­ing voice calls and data as well as con­trols which app gets to ac­cess what data. It costs about $799 but it’s a nice-look­ing phone with good specs too.

ISN’T THIS JUST OVERKILL FOR A NOR­MAL CIT­I­ZEN WHO HAS NOTH­ING TO HIDE?

Well, ev­ery time I have some­one who comes up to me and says “but I have noth­ing to hide”, I al­ways ask them to un­lock their phones and hand it over to me for an hour. I am yet to have some­one give it over. It’s not about things to hide, it’s about the pri­vacy of our lives – some­thing that must be re­spected at all lev­els.

In the fu­ture, en­crypted and un­hack­able phones shouldn’t be some­thing spe­cial but a stan­dard de­fault from all phone man­u­fac­tur­ers. It’s go­ing to be a tough task though, as this isn’t some­thing any govern­ment will en­cour­age or ask brands to do. Yet, the first seeds have been sown – hope­fully it’ll bloom into a full-blown rev­o­lu­tion.

In the mean­while, I’m think­ing of spend­ing the next few hours delet­ing a few pic­tures I’ve sent and re­ceived on Snapchat. It’s not that I have any­thing to hide, but then you can never be too care­ful!

A PRI­VATE PROM­ISE

The Black­phone 2’s op­er­at­ing sys­tem en­crypts every­thing in­clud­ing voice calls and data

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