It’s been many years since BlackBerry has been the company’s modern-day phone. Touch screen phones and the “bring your own device” trend puts an end to it all. But the concept of mobile devices meant for businesses and governments with above-average security concerns hasn’t made its way into tech history.
Brazilian software company Sikur has been pushing the concept since 2015, when it released a smartphone running a locked/hardened version of Android, which it dubbed GranitePhone. This was followed up in 2018 with SikurPhone.
Now at Mobile World Congress 2022, the company is showing off a new security-enhanced, “certified” Android phone — which has been given the somewhat misleading moniker Sikur One. (But this is marketing for you.)
It’s describing the device as a “concept of mistrust” — at the expense of a suite of “Sikur engineer-approved” features that have been touted to “augment defenses and encrypt confidential information at its source,” as she puts it.
Hidden security features include device encryption; default ban on installing applications from third-party stores; And a strict ban on location services – the latter, of course, is notoriously difficult to turn off vanilla Android thanks to Google’s multi-layered settings and an overwhelming appetite for user data.
Sikur’s “Android Verified Boot” also removes built-in system apps to reduce attack surface area and/or keep the device “lightweight and secure,” as PR explains.
And despite tweaking some standard software, Secor says the phone is “fully configured and ready to use,” while claiming it has “the same usability as a regular device.” (It probably depends on what exactly you want to use it for.)
Its build also comes with an unlocked bootloader and over-the-air patch (OTA) for apps and the operating system to ensure it’s always up to date, rather than leaving it up to users to remember to push a manual update, risking security vulnerabilities in the meantime.
Sikur also promotes the “password-less authentication token functionality” – which it notes can help prevent phishing and malware attacks. The default network settings are also modified with security in mind. (Plus you get Sikur’s secure VPN to protect unsecured Wi-Fi connections.)
Remote locking and wiping is also available on the board, as you’d expect.
The device comes with Sikur Messenger as the default comms app. The company’s end-to-end encrypted messaging app aims to stand as the secure corporate chat app (with messaging support, voice calls, video calls, etc.), and also to store and share files, and keep data in a secure private place. Cloud.
This level of secure communication will almost certainly only be available within the small Sikur Messenger network, so only employees with a device running the software will be able to participate. (Although the messenger app is also available for standard Android, iOS, and Windows platforms, it does not require access to the company’s mobile devices.)
On the specs front, the Sikur One has a 6.5-inch screen, an octa-core processor running Android 11, and a 4,000mAh battery.
It’s a 4G (not 5G) device, with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage (the expansion slot supports adding up to 512GB).
There are also front and back cameras and dual SIM support.
Color option: Stealth. (Black, obviously.)
“Normal devices are open and vulnerable to altered configurations and can contain applications that can corrupt the system and introduce malware, opening the doors to data leakage and espionage. With Sikur One, even communication over networks public, such as airports or restaurants, be protected.”
The phone is a collaboration between Sikur and the Brazilian electronics manufacturer Multilaser.
Pre-sales for the device — which Sikur is targeting at “large companies and government organizations,” and entities that may be involved in security and broader compliance with privacy rules such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation and its Brazilian equivalent, LGPD — will begin this week, according to the spokesperson.
“The devices are being sold across Latin America, the United States, Europe and the Middle East,” he said, adding that “Brazil and the United States are our biggest markets by far.”
Secor told us that the company has sold about 35,000 phones since 2015.