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The 4 Best Mobile Phones for Privacy and Security «Smartphones :: Gadget Hacks

Smartphones are inherently bad for privacy. You basically have a tracking device in your pocket that pings from cell towers and locks on GPS satellites. Meanwhile, the data connection of the handset ensures that tracking cookies, advertising IDs and usage statistics follow you on the Internet.

So no, there is no perfectly safe and truly private smartphone, let's get this out of the internet So, now. But in the information age, you practically need a smartphone to get through society, so the question arises: which phone manages to be the lesser evil?

Critical vulnerabilities such as the KRACK exploit and Blueborne, not to mention the FBI trying to find a backdoor on virtually every phone, are a difficult question to answer. To find the safest devices, we tested the top smartphones on the market and looked for key factors such as encryption strength, biometrics, hardware-based security, VPN availability, and security update windows. Our research restricted the list to four great phones, so let's discuss how well each of these devices protects your privacy.

Note: This article was last updated in June 201


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Image of Jon Knight / Gadget Hacks

Important Comparison Points

When it came to comparing our four final phones, there were These are the main distinguishing factors for privacy and security:

How We Pick These Phones

Our first requirement in choosing these phones was that they all had to be available in the United States from a major carrier or manufacturer. Second, a phone had to encrypt this list by default to make sure your data is protected from external access.

Another requirement was that all phones provide granular permission management that allows you to revoke the app. Permission to access specific features such as camera and microphone. To ensure that your data remains secure even if your phone is lost or stolen, we have only selected telephones with remote lock and wipe.

However, what limited this list was the hardware-based security requirement. Apple uses a hardware encryption chip to increase security, while the Android OEMs use some variants of a hardware root system. In fact, this means that there is a physical barrier between your data and any potential attacker – while they may be able to hack the software, they need physical access to completely break the encryption, and even then, this would be virtually impossible

Popular phones that lacked such a physical barrier are the HTC U12 +, the LG V35, the LG G7 ThinQ, the Moto Z2 Play, and the Moto Z2 Force.

It's also worth noting that some phones made our finale cut had sibling devices, which could also have been listed here – for example, Apple's older iPhone 7 models, Samsung Galaxy S8 lineup and the original Google Pixel. We've taken these devices off the list as there were newer and more sustainable models in the iPhone X, Galaxy Note 8 and Pixel 2, but from a privacy and security standpoint, they are still solid phones.

From there The finalists were ranked based on how well the devices were rated in the above key comparison points, and thus the following phones climbed to the top.

Phone 1: BlackBerry KEY2

Last year's list, the BlackBerry KEYone won our top spot for privacy and security. Thanks to its low price and the numerous BB10 security enhancements it brought to the Android platform, it was easy to recommend this device to anyone who wants to prioritize their security and protect their privacy.

With the release of its sequel, our expectations were high that it would replace its predecessor on our list. And although the price level is not as strong as it used to be, it's still the best smartphone for privacy and security.

Each time you power up the device, the BlackBerry KEY2 grabs extra Steps to make sure your phone has not been tampered with. Known as the hardware root of trust, cryptographic keys are injected into the processor to verify the device and ensure that no tampering has occurred. These keys are unique to the smartphone and one of the main reasons why the KEYone (and hopefully KEY2) will not start. This is because every time you start your system, every level of your device is checked for changes. From the hardware to the operating system, the KEY2 looks for modifications and does not start if a layer fails the test.

Because the Linux kernel is a destination for smartphone hacking, BlackBerry hardens the kernel during production. BlackBerry signs and verifies that each Key2 leaves the factory to ensure that each phone leaves the desired state, both its hardware and its software. But the hardening process does not end after the phone leaves the factory.

BlackBerry promises to provide monthly security patches for Android for two years, closing new security holes, including possible kernel compromises. And it's not just Google's security policy – BlackBerry adds its own security patches to address security holes that may compromise their device .

Again, BlackBerry opted for full disk encryption instead of the newer Android file encryption While file-based encryption can isolate some files from others, hard-disk encryption ensures that everything stored on your hard drive (from your pictures to the root folder) is secured over the encryption standard AES-128. More than likely, BB chose this encryption method to keep it FIPS 140-2 compliant. FIPS 140-2 is an American computer security standard used for cryptography of hardware and software components.

Not all security enhancements of the KEY2 are under the hood; There are some improvements that you can not only see, but interact with. A good example of this is the Privacy Shade, which obstructs the view of everyone but a small area of ​​your screen. Especially if you use your phone in public, protect your privacy from prying neighbors who can not help but look at your screen.

Another great example of this is DTEK. DTEK is the dashboard that lets you interact with many software-based changes implemented by BlackBerry and acts as the central hub for the security of your KEY2. DTEK automatically monitors the operating system and apps for potential privacy risks and evaluates the integrity of the device with a meter. If DTEK discovers privacy risks, it will recommend a course of action that can be taken within the app.

With the KEY2, however, BlackBerry has improved the capabilities of DTEK. KEY2 introduces a new feature, known as BlackBerry Integrity Protection, that alerts users to malicious apps that show suspicious behavior (such as turning on the microphone in the background). In addition, users can set their own triggers for similar unwanted behaviors, such as when an app uses the camera in the background.

There are too many KEY2 security enhancements in the BlackBerry to mention them all in this article. For a Cliff Notes version, when it comes to security and privacy, there is no other smartphone we recommend more. BlackBerry builds the KEY2 from the ground up with security precautions, allowing it to be ahead of the competition.

Phone 2: iPhone X

Much of the security and privacy features of the iPhone X are available courtesy of iOS. Apple's mobile operating system has several advantages over its competitors, which protect the device from various threats.

An example of this is Apple's ability to update all iOS devices faster than Google. Because of the open-source nature of Android, OEMs have added skins to the operating system to diversify their smartphones. However, these skins make updating devices difficult, as updates usually destroy some of the skin features. iOS devices do not have skins because there is only one manufacturer. This allows Apple to test a few devices to make sure that updates are compatible, and then send them to the mass. While most Apple products are on the latest firmware, only 0.5% of Android devices run the latest version of Android.

Get your iPhone X from: Amazon | Apple | Best Buy

Image of Dallas Thomas / Gadget Hacks

Another benefit of iOS is how it handles encryption. While both Android and iOS use file-based encryption, Apple's implementation is a much more sophisticated model. iOS encrypts both files and their metadata (information about the file) separately with unique keys. These keys are then encrypted by another key derived from the user code and the hardware.

This second set of keys protects files based on their content. For files that require a higher level of security, the keys unlock their contents only after the device is activated and unlocked. For other files, authentication is required only once to access them. For these keys, there are four security classes that Apple can use to better control file encryption.

The number of CVEs (or Common Vulnerabilities and Threats ) is lower than for Android and is decreasing every year. Since last year, iOS's CVEs have increased by 204, compared to Android's 318 in the same period.

Due to Apple's closed ecosystem, the App Store has far fewer malware apps than the Play Store. As each app is manually reviewed by a team at Apple, it is more difficult for malicious apps to use the App Store.

Image by Dallas Thomas / Gadget Hacks

One important point to keep in mind is why we chose the iPhone X over the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus , is his face recognition system. Despite some anecdotal examples on the Internet, Apple's statistics show that the Face ID is more secure than the Touch ID.

Apple has also taken steps to make sure your Face ID data is as secure as possible. The face of your face is encrypted and stored in the Secure Enclave, an isolated piece of hardware within the iPhone X. Except for the Apple support diagnostic data, Face ID data never leaves the device. Apps that use the Face ID for authentication are only informed that authentication is successful and access to the data is not allowed.

There is another nice privacy feature that comes with the Face ID. If someone picks up your iPhone X except you, all notifications will be blocked and your privacy will be protected. However, once the TrueDepth camera authenticates a valid user (you), it will display the content.

Apart from Face ID, all the other security benefits of the iPhone X are also valid for Apple's cheaper flagship 2017, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. If you're not ready to pay an after-tax after-tax, the iPhone 8 models are almost as secure as the iPhone X, so you can not go in the wrong direction. Nonetheless, the X is the absolute top Apple phone when it comes to security and privacy.

Phone 3: Galaxy Note 8

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 uses a similar security offering as the Blackberry suite. Known as Samsung Knox, this security platform offers deep protection that combines both hardware and software solutions. Knox's goal is to separate your work environment from your personal environment and to provide the necessary protection to effectively isolate each area.

Get your Samsung Galaxy Note 8 from: Amazon | Best Buy | Samsung

Image of Jeff Springer / Gadget Hacks

The Galaxy Note 8 achieves this goal with a host of features. Similar to Blackberry, it starts with the Hardware Root of Trust. The Device Root Key (a cryptographic key) is inserted into each Galaxy Note 8 during the manufacturing process and is accessible only in a secure environment known as the Trust Zone. This key is unique to each Galaxy Note 8 and is therefore used to identify the device. These keys are also used to encrypt corporate data and to permanently store the data on the device.

The Galaxy Note 8 also has a secure boot key that checks each component during startup to make sure nothing has been compromised. These keys run Secure Boot, a mechanism designed to prevent users from modifying the boot loader or operating system of the device. Making these changes to your device significantly affects the integrity of your security. Unlike BlackBerry KEYone, however, this did not prevent users from root-killing the device.

Samsung also uses rollback protection, which binds certain Samsung programs and executables to the latest version of the firmware. As older firmware has security holes, this ensures that all Galaxy Note 8 models work with the latest software.

Image of Jeff Springer / Gadget Hacks

While the Knox platform is extensive (with many other features that are not relevant to this article), it shows its inability to Roots to prevent an exploit that was not found on the KEYone. In contrast to the other smartphones on this list, a large part of the Knox platform is behind a paywall. While Grade 8 is one of the best phones on our list, these restrictions have forced them into third place.

Phone 4: Pixel 2 (or Pixel 2 XL)

The benefits that iOS has over Android has forced the Pixel 2 (and / or Pixel 2 XL) to be the last on our list, but this is by no means an unsafe smartphone. Although Pixel 2 had some hiccups, such as late patching of KRACK vulnerability, Google's flagship is still one of the safest smartphones available, and the reason is its hardware.

Get Your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL from: Amazon | Best Buy | Google

Image of Dallas Thomas / Gadget Hacks

The Pixel 2 has moved the authentication process from a software-based secure environment (known as TrustZone) to a chip physically separate from the SoC. This security module contains all the resources required to authenticate on your Pixel 2 device. It is resistant to both software-based and physical attacks and provides first-class protection for your cryptographic keys.

Unlike most Android devices, Pixel 2 and 2 XL always have the latest version of Android and its security patches – Google has even committed to offering full Android updates on those phones for three years now. Security patches are submitted monthly, protecting the phone from potential new threats.

Image from Dallas Thomas / Gadget Hacks

Google has one of the best bug bounty programs from all the manufacturers on this list. They will offer up to $ 200,000 for critical bugs, and the program is open to the public, so there should always be enough people to search the Pixel 2 codebase for vulnerabilities.


The KEYone continues Blackberry's tradition of enterprise-class privacy and security so it surpasses our list pretty easily. With its DTEK security platform, Full Disk Encryption and the extensive verified Secure Boot, BlackBerry has developed this device for those who want to protect their phones and their data.

The KEY2 is one of the best BlackBerry devices for years. It embodies the reputation of BlackBerry security and adapts it to the preferences of the current market. The result is one of the safest smartphones on the market that benefits from the Android operating system and its millions of apps. With the DTEK security platform, Full Disk Encryption and the extensive verified secure boot, BlackBerry has developed this device for those who want to protect their phones and their data.

While the KEY2 is more expensive than its predecessor, the cost is higher with some improvements. The KEY2 has a smaller "forehead", a 20% larger physical keyboard, a faster Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and 6GB of RAM.

After you said that you do not want to use an Android phone, then the iPhone X is the best iOS device for the privacy-conscious user. Not only does IOS have amazing features built into the operating system to protect its users, but Apple has improved authentication with the introduction of Face ID. And once again, an iPhone was able to thwart the FBI's best efforts after the Texas Church Shoot and provide a realistic example of how secure iOS is.

Miss: The 5 Best Mobile Phones for Rooting & Modding

Cover Picture on Engadget / YouTube and Screenshots of Jon Knight / Gadget Hacks

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