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John McAfee Unveils ‘World’s Most Private And Secure Smartphone’

Sam Pudwell joined Silicon UK as a reporter in December 2016. As well as being the resident Cloud aficionado, he covers areas such as cyber security, government IT and sports technology, with the aim of going to as many events as possible.

The $1,100 (£853) device will become available later this year for privacy-conscious enterprises and consumers

Security software expert John McAfee is building the “world’s first truly private smartphone” and has revealed a prototype that prioritises user privacy and security to protect users.

Speaking to Newsweek, he claimed the ‘John McAfee Privacy Phone’ will be the most hack-proof device ever built and will be released later this year through cyber security firm MGT, with a second-generation smartphone planned for next year.

The full device specs will not be made publicly available until the week before its launch and will set users back $1,100 (£853).

john-mcafee-privacy-phone
(Credit: Newsweek)

Privacy phone

“Enormous investment in hardware costs have gone into this,” he told the magazine. “The smartphone contains a bank of switches on the back cover that allow the user to physically disconnect the battery, the antennas for WiFi, Bluetooth and geolocation, the camera and the microphone.

“It also will not allow the phone to connect to a Stingray or any other IMSI catcher device. In addition, it contains a web search anonymizer.

“It is Version 1. It is not hack proof but it does give the user enormous power over his or her privacy and it is light years ahead of the Blackphone or any other phone claiming to be secure.”

The phone is aimed at enterprises users, but the real test will be whether privacy-conscious consumers are willing to potentially sacrifice some usability and the comfort factor that comes with mainstream devices from the likes of Apple and Samsung.

Speaking to Silicon, Amit Sethi, senior principal consultant at Synopsys said: “There is certainly a niche market for such devices. However, the general population tends to value ease-of-use and features more than privacy.

“In a world where people knowingly share everything on social media and value convenience over privacy, it is unlikely that a privacy-focused phone will see widespread use. Security and privacy are rarely among the top deciding factors for users purchasing smartphones.”

Sethi also highlighted the fact that turning off connectivity to reduce the available attack surface, as McAfee’s phone allows, only solves part of the problem as there may be malicious apps running on the device.

“A smartphone is only as useful as the apps running on it. It’s not just about securing the operating system. The operating system will need to make user data available to apps for the smartphone to be useful. And, there will always be malicious apps that will try to misuse this data,” he said.

Kyle Wilhoit, senior security researcher at DomainTools added: “I’m a proponent of any privacy focused product, and that includes smartphones. To be sufficiently secure, there would need to be a combination of physical and virtual security mechanisms embedded into the device. I would be curious to see the full feature set of such a phone.”

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