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John McAfee claims his upcoming Privacy Phone is "world's first truly private phone".

New Delhi, May 1 --

Cybersecurity mainstay, John McAfee says smartphones have become the "achilles heel of cybersecurity", and he's doing something about it. In an exclusive interview to Newsweek, McAfee told the publication that he's working on a phone called the Privacy Phone, which will be the "world's first truly private phone". McAfee is of the opinion that irrespective of how secure apps become, "they must still execute an environment designed from ground to be a spy device". McAfee thinks smartphones are like race cars powered by rubber bands.

Further, McAfee told Newsweek that "enormous investment" and hardware costs have been put into creating the smartphone. He explained that the Privacy Phone will have physical switches on its back, which allow users to turn off antennas, WiFi, geolocation, Bluetooth, microphone, camera and more. The switches can also be used to bar the device from connecting to IMSI catchers. McAfee said the device comes with a in-built web search anonymizer as well.

McAfee's cybersecurity firm, MGT has signed a "non-binding" letter of intent with the Nordic IT Sourcing Association for development of the Privacy Phone. The full specs of the product will be released a week before the phone is launched, but Nordic's announcement says it'll be an Android smartphone sourced from existing OEMs, which will then be tweaked by the parties involved to add security features. The Privacy Phone will be priced at $1100, with enterprise users as its primary target.

Do you need a Privacy Phone?

McAfee mentioned that recent leaks, such as Wikileaks' Vault7 documents, could have regular consumers interested in such a device. However, it is indeed true that privacy usually comes with complications, conflicting with ease of use. While smartphones, especially those running on Android are often vulnerable, a Privacy Phone may not be the option.

That's because consumer awareness and consciousness is the first requirement for privacy concerns. Newsweek cited a security expert who said consumers choose ease of use over privacy. In addition, physical switches may seem simple, but they can be turned on and off by anyone, which means the phone's owner has to be all the more careful with it.

McAfee perhaps has one good point though. He posted an image of himself, holding a prototype Privacy Phone, saying, "Hardware has everything to do with security. Software has everything to do with insecurity." Software, in this case should include everything from third party apps that can have loopholes allowing attackers to access your phone, to custom software companies introduce to differentiate their products.

Published by HT Digital Content Services with permission from Digit.

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Date:May 1, 2017
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