Picture the scene. You’re zooming along at 30,000 feet in your private jet, surrounded by a team of highly trained guards. They’re headed up by your most trusted friend, Gavin, an ex-SAS soldier who you made chief of security after an injury forced him into early retirement.
There’s a rumble through the fuselage. A tray of champagne flutes rattles somewhere nearby. The co-pilot asks you to put your seatbelt on. Just a bit of turbulence, you think, nothing that could ruffle the feathers of a Fortune 500 CEO on his way to an important meeting of international diplomats.
The cockpit curtain is pulled back and a menacing figure emerges. Hold on, you think, that’s not Gerrard, your Thursday pilot. That’s not any of your pilots from any of the days of the week.
The stranger pulls out a weapon as you’re bundled to the floor by Gavin and his lightning fast SAS reaction speeds. You’re under attack! Blam blam blam. A gunfight erupts between the assassin and your team of guards, sending shards of Cristal and little bags of sour cream and chive pretzels everywhere. Gavin’s weight on top of you feels comforting, like a protective man-blanket. Ahh.
The noise stops, save for the lulling thrum of the engines. “Gavin? Is it safe to emerge from beneath your reassuring heft yet?” you ask, your best friend’s cologne filling your nostrils. “Gavin?”
And all because your phone was hacked, ya big dumbo. Your flight manifest was compromised by some dodgy Heathrow wi-fi and the hacker assumed the identity of Gerrard, who is presumably now tied up in a basement somewhere, or worse.
While my story (to which I retain all movie rights) might sound far-fetched, few could argue against the importance of decent phone security when you’re immensely rich or important. Those who have the most to lose from data theft also have the most to spend, which is how the £9,500 (plus VAT) Solarin phone came to be. Built with privacy in mind, it’s a phone for those who believe that money is no object when it comes to protecting business critical information.
It’s essentially two phones inside one case, capable of switching from a full-featured, top of the range smartphone to a sort of handheld fortress. Slide a physical switch on the phone’s back and it enters Secure Shield mode, which runs on its own physical hardware inside the case and allows you to make end-to-end encrypted VOIP calls and messages.
While the manufacturer is not so bold as to call it unhackable – we’ve all seen Titanic – Sirin Labs claims that Solarin is the most secure phone ever made. It also says it’s the best, with much of the price-tag justified by the phone’s beautiful screen, hefty battery and booming speakers. Where other luxury phones go for bling and jazzle, Sirin Labs has sought to create something that’s unassuming in person, and invisible online.
Want security on the cheap? Try these alternatives...
Signal (iOS, Android)
If there is an unofficial spokesman for the government keeping its grubby beak out of your emails, it’s our Russian friend Edward Snowden – and he says we should all be using Signal. It’s a messaging app that allows you to send end-to-end encrypted messages, and is also designed to work seamlessly with the RedPhone secure calling app. Now they’ll never learn the dark secret that keeps you gnashing and wailing until the sweet release of sleep.
WhatsApp (iOS, Android)
Anyone who regularly uses instant messaging app WhatsApp will have seen little yellow boxes flashing up saying “Messages you send to this chat and calls are now protected with end-to-end encryption”. This essentially means that neither WhatsApp nor your phone carrier is able to see the message you’re sending: it’s all incomprehensible strings of code from the moment you press send until it reaches the phone of its recipient.
Cryptomator is a pay-what-you-like service that will automatically encrypt all of your files as you upload them to the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and iCloud) and then unscramble them whenever you need them again. It’s an additional layer of security when using storage that can’t always be relied upon to keep your junk safe from bad men on the internet who are out to get you. It’s also got a robot for an icon and we all like robots.
Blackphone 2 (Website)
Costing a mere six per cent of the Solarin phone above, the Blackphone 2 still manages to cost £599, which means either maths, percentages or markets are broken. This is a similarly privacy-centric device, running a security-focused Android variant called Silent OS. There’s even a fuse that will blow if somebody tries to tinker with the firmware, which makes you like the man out of Mission: Impossible. The one whose phone is always exploding.
An old Nokia 3210
Beat the hackers by reverting to ancient technology. With the capacity to hold 250 names in its phone book at the same time, the Nokia 3210 barely has any data to steal. Who needs wi-fi when you can spend two hours in the ringtone editor painstakingly entering in the Eastenders theme tune from a Geocities page filled with animated gifs of Jesus Christ waving a “website under construction” sign?