Silent Circle’s advice to brands: ‘You can’t trust emails or phone calls anymore’

Although concerns over privacy and surveillance remain at an all-time high post-Snowden, location tracking-heavy smartphones – such as the iPhone 6 – continue to prosper. But as it gears up for the launch of its second security-focused Blackphone in September, Silent Circle says it is convinced there is still a “considerable market” for its encrypted solutions among consumers and big businesses alike.

The first-generation Blackphone [co-founded by the man who pioneered PGP encryption, Phil Zimmerman, and former Navy Seal Mike Janke, after the latter wanted to provide solutions to U.S. troops banned from Skyping their families due to security risks] launched early last year, with its promises to counter unauthorised surveillance and commercial exploitation of activity data quickly winning plaudits.

The smartphone comes pre-installed with Silent Circle encrypted communications apps and a secure version of Android called PrivatOS. It also featured in Time magazine’s “Best 25 Inventions of 2014”, while it has been exhibited in London’s V&A Museum and the International Spy Museum in Washington.

Rob Smith, Silent Circle’s chief marketing officer, said the brand, which offers security-focused app alternatives to the likes of Skype and iCloud as well as hardware, sees education as a “crucial marketing tool” as it aims to grow brand awareness.

Citing its recently announced sponsorship with The Guardian, which will see the paper publish a series of articles from Silent Circle examining online privacy over a six month period, Smith says too many brands are failing to consider their vulnerability to hacking attacks.

He told Marketing Week: “You only have to look at Ashley Madison to see that there’s still some pretty big issues.

“At the moment, around 70% of people are bringing their device to work and connecting to internal networks. The ‘bring your own device’ attitude is making it incredibly easy for hackers to come in and exploit any brand that relies on personal information; I can only see it getting worse.”

Smith says the Blackphone, which allows users to check all of the information an app monitors before downloading, is opening the public’s eyes.

“If you download Uber on iOS you just approve access to x but on our phone it tells you everything Uber wants access to and it’s just crazy,” he explained.

“Something like Uber needs access to your location, photos, microphone and airplane mode. I’m not sure as many people would download it if they knew Uber had the option to record someone in their cabs and turn off their phone at will.”

National Harbor, MD - JUNE 10:  Portraits for Silent Circle on June 10, 2015 in National Harbor, MD.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Smith says Silent Circle already has several major brands using its security-led hardware and software (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Although he admits that Blackphone’s buzz owed a lot to “luck” and “fortunate timing” having launched post-Snowden, he insisted the business has long term ambitions.

“If we took 1% of the world’s smartphone market, we would be happy but who’s to say this won’t just be a software business in 10 years,” he said, revealing that the Blackphone’s users are currently 20% consumers to 80% business contracts.

The second Blackphone is just the start of the company’s development portfolio, however, with Silent Circle also working on an app to provide a safer alternative to conference calling. Referencing Apple Pay, Smith said a payments app could also “be looked at in the future but not yet.”

He added: “We have a major aerospace business using our software and hardware, along with a large FMCG brand and journalism publishing house. I think all of our clients are realising that hackers are not just after credit card details but also personal information. if you’re a marketer then you can’t trust emails or phone calls anymore, just look at Sony.”

Acknowledging that there is still widespread concern among the masses of “Orwellian surveillance” and hacking, Smith concluded: ““We can be the antidote.

“If you email someone, it sits somewhere – the same with a call. With our encryption process, there’s no record of anything so the NSA isn’t about to come knocking to seize any of our user’s information.”

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