FreedomPop’s claim to fame is the company’s low-cost wireless plans. But now FreedomPop is jumping on the privacy and security bandwagon, offering a new phone that it says offers more secure communications.
It’s called the Privacy Phone, and while the hardware is kind of dated, it’s loaded with features to help keep your voice calls and text messages from prying eyes.
The Privacy Phone is basically a modified Samsung Galaxy S II Android smartphone that sells for $189. It has a 1.2 GHz Samsung Exynos 4210 dual-core processor, 16GB of storage, a microSD card slot, WiFi, Bluetooth, and an 8MP camera. The phone works on FreedomPop’s wireless network, which basically means it works on Sprint’s wireless network, but relies on WiFi whenever available.
What sets the Privacy Phone apart from a normal Galaxy S II is the 128 bit encryption used for phone calls and text messages, and VPN service to allow for anonymous web browsing and internet use. Note that a VPN isn’t a full-proof way to protect your privacy, but it’s probably better than the software that comes with most phones.
FreedomPop’s new phone isn’t the only Android phone aimed at the privacy-minded. The Blackphone is a $629 handset which comes bundled with secure software and access to secure communications services. But FreedomPop’s Privacy Phone is a lot cheaper — especially when you consider the company’s core business model.
Buy a FreedomPop hotspot and you can get 500MB of data per month for free. The company also offers phone plans that start as low as $5. The Privacy Phone is sold as a contract-free device which comes with 3 months of unlimited talk and text and 500MB of data. After that, you can pony up for a month-to-month plan — and if you don’t want the transaction to be traceable, you can pay in Bitcoin.
Every sms/call encryption I’ve seen requires that both users have it employed. I don’t see how they are encrypting sms and calls other than through the same vpn, and then letting it loose from their server to the end user which won’t be encrypted. And if their server is within the US we all know the gov will have full access, encrypted or not.
The intent may not be to defend against the NSA/US gov’t, and really, since following the whole Snowden saga, I honestly don’t believe it’s even possible to defend yourself against the NSA anyway. What the landing page explicitly does, however, say, which or may not have value to you follows:
Encrypts communication for voice calls and text messages
Uses 128-bit encryption, the same proven encryption trusted by banks and government agencies
Enables anonymous internet browsing wherever you go
Prevents online marketers from tracking your web activity
Defends against data monitoring and eavesdropping from 3rd parties
Bypasses any website restrictions and connect to any site online
yeah, I read all that. The thing is, it’s all fine for web browsing — essentially vpn with encryption. However, when you start some type of direct communication with another party there isn’t a way to encrypt all the way to the receiver unless the receiver is using the same protocol/software.
That makes me think they are only encrypting to their servers, which is better than nothing, but it isn’t really what they are leading people to think — “Encrypts communication for voice calls and text messages.” That makes me think my voice and text will be encrypted to and from the person I’m communicating with, and that isn’t possible unless both are using the same device/software/protocol, afaik.
And typical of Freedompop they don’t have a lot of additional information.
I would wager money that somewhere you will find an asterisk and it will have something along the lines of, “only when both parties us a privacy phone.”
Which means, you can do the same thing right now with an app and/or VPN.
The NSA aside, I agree with Guest123 that both the source and destination points must use the same encryption scheme to truely make it effective. All their service does is make the origin of your communication look like it’s from FreedomPop instead of you. Of course, that SMS or phone call your friend receives can be traced back to you if his phone is comprimised. Also, FreedomPop could store logs which hackers might be able to get in to.
It’s possible that they could make an encryped point to point connection between 2 Privacy Phones but they’re site isn’t clear.
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