Encryption of communication channels has been deemed necessary for quite some time. Messaging apps like Telegram rose to popularity for the security features it had to offer. Encryption and right to privacy have often been the bone of contention between the Government authorities and the privacy advocates/smartphone manufacturers. In the midst of this battle, a handful of companies are apparently catering to the criminal organizations and making custom phones for them.
These companies are usually (not the company in question though) hidden from the public view and mostly rely on the word to word marketing. The modus operandi includes removing camera and microphone and loading the device with secure messaging service that uses private networks. FBI has recently arrested Phantom Secure CEO as part of the law enforcement operation. As per sources from Motherboard, the Phantom operation was a result of a partnership with the Canadian and Australian authorities.
Apple Vs Phantom Securities
Naturally, one might argue that Apple should have also been indicted in the recent case wherein the company refused to build backdoors for their devices. Well, the specifics of the Phantom Securities case is very different as opposed to Apple.
The charge sheet against Vincent Ramos, CEO-Canada based Phantom accuses the company of racketeering conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs and also conspiracy to distribute narcotics and aiding and abetting. In simpler words, the firm is alleged to have involved in readying phones that are extremely secure. Unlike Apple, Phantom is not incidental to a crime but is rather instrumental in the crime.
The complaint further states that the head honchos of the infamous Sinaloa drug cartel used Phantom’s devices. That apart high ranking members of other criminal organizations were found to be using the device. As per an estimate 20,000 Phantom devices are currently in use globally and half of them are in Australia. Needless to say, the security firm is pocketing money by serving the criminal community.
Further investigation has revealed that the shady firm in question was removing the microphone and camera from BlackBerry devices. Other communication modules including GPS navigation, internet browsing, and the usual messaging services are also removed. The devices make use of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) software to send the messages. This is what Ramos told the undercover agents, “We made it—we made it specifically for this [drug trafficking] too.” That being said, the Phantom Secure is a fairly popular company and has a website that advertises their expertise. That’s not all they have a demo video on how to use the encrypted BlackBerry.