Security experts are raising concerns about the “Freedom Phone”, a new device designated by prominent conservatives as both secure and censorship-resistant.
Revealed Wednesday by Erik Finman, the world’s youngest bitcoin millionaire, the $ 500 Freedom Phone claims to offer a range of robust privacy features as well as an uncensored app store.
Finman states that Freedom Phone runs on a custom Android operating system known as “FreedomOS” and provides access to apps such as Parler, the social media service that had previously been banned from app stores in the wake of the Capitol uprising.
The launch of the phone also came with many endorsements from popular right-wing figures such as Jack Posobiec and Candace Owens, who both offered their followers discount codes for the device. It is still unclear if any individuals get financial setbacks to market Freedom Phone.
Nevertheless, security experts raise serious questions about the device, noting that the Freedom Phone website does not provide relevant information about the specifications or source code.
Matthew Hickey, co-founder of cyber security firm Hacker House, told the Daily Dot that Freedom Phone appears to be nothing more than a branded Umigami A9 Pro – a Chinese smartphone that costs as little as $ 119 on AliExpress.
“This device is a drop-shipped customizable Android-based phone,” said Hickey. “They can be purchased and shipped in bulk from Asia with custom logos and branding to give the look of a phone designed for a unique purpose.”
Hickey added that the phone is notorious for its poor security, mainly due to the use of processors from MediaTek, a Taiwanese company that offers chips for smartphones.
“I’ve never experienced a secure MediaTek device in my entire life,” said Hickey. “Using MediaTek for anything and expecting privacy or security is fundamentally wrong.”
Hickey even stated that MediaTek’s processors are widely used in smartphones throughout North Korea because of their “highly adaptable nature and low security barriers”, which allow the regime to easily implement surveillance backdoors.
Daily Dot reached out to Freedom Phone to ask about the device’s specifications, but got no response. Questions about potential security issues were also unanswered.
Other issues surrounding Freedom Phone’s app store, known as PatriApp. The company has not explained what protections, if any, have been put in place to ensure that malware is not introduced.
“Google and Apple App Stores are implementing a rigorous code inspection process before applications become available. And while this is not foolproof, it does help prevent a wide range of common malware from being loaded onto devices, ”said Hickey. “The Freedom Phone offers an app store that promises not to censor apps, but which has not made it clear how it will perform this important process while enduring malicious software.”
With almost no information given about the device from Freedom Phone so far, there are still big questions. And without access to the operating system source code, users do not know what their phone is doing in the background.
But maybe they will feel free from big techs shackles when they download virus after virus.
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* First published: 15 July 2021, 15:04 CDT