July 19, 2021

A Few Questions About the Freedom Phone

There was a big stink last week about a new phone being marketed. 

The Freedom Phone is advertised as prioritizing privacy and security. It comes loaded with several free-speech-oriented applications (and Gab) and has several privacy features including something called 'Trusty' which is advertised as a secure phone operating system.

Now there have been numerous criticisms of this endeavor...rather an awful lot, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and, here. That's a small fraction of the stories.
The phone itself appears to be a cheap Chinese model (Umidigi's A9-Pro) purchased in bulk from Ali-Baba  for about $119 U.S.. Given the 500 dollar price of the Freedom Phone, this seems to approach the iPhone in mark up.

However, while it is noted that the same result could be had by jailbreaking, stripping out and reprograming an A9-Pro with Trusty and all the other free speech apps (and Gab) that skillset is beyond those who are not tech hobbyists. 

For my part, I am a....I am a Mac user. Thus, the only thing I know about computers is that they require good industrial design to keep the magic smoke in the machines, enabling the sorcery to activate the magic mirror that sees through the tubes that interface with the ley lines. 

That is, perhaps, an extreme example, but jaibreaking phones and selecting apps that enable privacy is beyond the ken of those for whom smartphones are essentially black box technology. An excellent argument can be made that people should have a basic understanding of the kit we use, but that is not the reality of the present for a great many people, which leads to my first question for the tech literate amongst my readership: Is 300 dollars reasonable to charge for jailbreaking a phone, stripping it of its data and OS and installing a secure OS and apps (as well as Gab) ?

Perhaps more importantly, are Trusty and the other apps really able to be considered in any way secure? I thought that passage through the ley lines was managed by the mighty warlocks, like AT&T or Verizon, meaning that one's data is passing through those that will sift through it.

I'm also curious how much HARDWARE vulnerability is inherent in a phone designed and built in China, as I understand it, for the domestic market. I understand that there is no capacity for domestic production of smartphones in the U.S. but the PRC is not the only place with that capacity, finland, India and Taiwan come to mind. 

The notion that someone associated with 'Conservative Inc.' might be a squalid grifter is not beyond the scope of believability. 

At all. 

The idea that this might be a grift is a very believable one...and yet....

There is an AWFUL lot of what appears to be concern trolling on this matter. Tim Pool suggested that the people doing Freedom Phone are taking fire because they are over target, and the media fusillade against the project is reactionary. However, he has not examined one of these things. 

I don't know enough to make a decision, so I ask you gentle readers, (well the tech savvy amongst you) what do you think of this thing are there any prticular red flags not mentioned in the numerous reports on it or can a Chinese phone (or any phone) be made so it will protect the user's data via software modifications. 

And if that is the case, are there any horses left in that barn?

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 07:56 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
Post contains 588 words, total size 5 kb.

1 I don't know that anyone has actually proven that the hardware encryption available to that phone, and others that use various Chinese domestic chips, has backdoors or the like, but I also don't know anyone who truly believes they don't. At the very minimum, the level of encryption provided, even if not explicitly back-doored, is insufficient to stand against any determined attack.
As for as what your network provider can get, you can generally assume that the encrypted content of what you send is safe, but that what kind of data you're sending, and to whom, is not. The protocols to support hiding even who you're talking to are gaining encryption support, but it's not there in usable terms yet.
My thinking on where we are vis a vis the whole encryption vs government and big tech spying, at least here in the US, is that you can't effectively keep Amazon, Google, etc from knowing way more about you than you'd like, in terms of who you talk to, where you go, what you read, your source of news, etc. The govt simultaneously knows both more and less, but has huge problems knowing who and what to actually look at, so unless you do something that raises red flags, it's more a concern in principle than in actual fact. And of course, "trying to encrypt everything you do while displaying thought to the right of Mao" is a very large red flag.

Posted by: David Eastman at Tue Jul 20 14:09:36 2021 (t/97R)

2 No such thing as absolute security. It is always a test against what people are willing to put into breaking in. If you are not carefully considering physical security, hardware, software, etc., you are overlooking a vulnerability. Media fire is because the PRC cannot afford to have it realized that they can and will dick around with the hardware they supply, even though they are known to be doing so. Smartphones are basically a bad idea. Assume anything on them is compromised, and put nothing important on them.

Posted by: PatBuckman at Tue Jul 20 15:40:27 2021 (6y7dz)

3 I'm curious about this phone and like the idea of it. Even if it is a generic smart phone, I don't mind the kind of markup discussed - it would be worth it to me since I lack the time & knowledge to 'jailbreak' a phone on my own. I don't mind letting a capitalist make extra money from me.  The deal-breaker for me is 'made in China'. We know they mess with the hardware. I'd be willing to pay more for a phone made in a less adversarial country (assuming the chips aren't imported from China). 
Love your blog. I've probably been reading over 10 years now.
Cheers, Steve S.

Posted by: Steve S at Wed Jul 21 18:37:35 2021 (wcJ16)

Hide Comments | Add Comment

What colour is a green orange?

28kb generated in CPU 0.1223, elapsed 0.9963 seconds.
70 queries taking 0.985 seconds, 194 records returned.
Powered by Minx 1.1.6c-pink.