It’s been many years since the BlackBerry was the business phone of the day. Touchscreen phones and the “bring your own device” trend have put an end to all that. But the concept of dedicated mobile hardware for businesses and governments with above-average security concerns has not gone down in tech history.
Brazilian software company Sikur has been pushing the concept since 2015, when it released a smartphone running a locked down/hardened version of Android, which it dubbed GranitePhone. This was followed in 2018 with the SikurPhone.
Now, at Mobile World Congress 2022, the company is showcasing a new security-hardened and ‘certified’ Android handset – which has been given the somewhat misleading moniker Sikur One. (But that’s marketing for you.)
This is to call the device a “zero trust concept” – due to a set of features “certified by engineer Sikur” that are touted to “increase defenses and encrypt confidential information at its source” , as he says.
Built-in security features include device encryption; a default block on installing apps from third-party stores; and a hard block on location services – the latter, of course, being notoriously difficult to disable on vanilla Android thanks to Google’s multi-layered settings and voracious appetite for user data.
Sikur’s “Android Verified Boot” also purges built-in system apps to further reduce the attack surface and/or keep the device “light and secure”, as its PR states.
And despite the modification of some standard software, Sikur claims that the handset is “fully configured and ready to use”, while claiming that it has “the same usability as a regular device”. (Maybe it depends on what you want to use it for.)
Its version also comes with a locked bootloader and over-the-air (OTA) patches for apps and OS to ensure it is always up-to-date, rather than leaving users to remember to push a manual update, risking security vulnerabilities in the meantime.
Sikur further touts a “passwordless authentication token feature” – which it claims could help prevent phishing and malware attacks. Default network settings are also changed for security reasons. (Plus, you get Sikur’s secure VPN to protect unsecured Wi-Fi connections.)
Remote locking and erasing are also on board, as you’d expect.
The device comes with Sikur Messenger as the default communication application. The company’s end-to-end encrypted messaging application is intended to serve as a secure enterprise chat application (with support for messaging, voice, video calls, etc.), as well as for storing and sharing files, keeping data in a secure private space. cloud.
Granted, this level of secure communication will only be available within the Sikur Messenger micro-network, so only employees with a device running the software will be able to participate. (Although the messaging app is also available for standard Android, iOS, and Windows, so it doesn’t require access to company mobile hardware.)
Spec-wise, the Sikur One has a 6.5-inch screen, an octa core processor running Android 11, and a 4,000mAh battery.
It’s a 4G device (not 5G), with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage (an expansion slot supports adding up to 512GB).
There are also front and rear cameras and dual SIM support.
Color Option: Stealth. (Black, obviously.)
“Ordinary devices are open and susceptible to changed configurations and may contain applications that can damage the system and introduce malware, opening the door to data leakage and eavesdropping. With Sikur One, even a connection established on public networks, such as in airports or restaurants, is protected,” Fabio Fischer, CEO of Sikur, said in a statement.
The handset is a collaboration between Sikur and Brazilian electronics manufacturer Multilaser.
Pre-sales of the device – which Sikur is targeting at “large enterprises and government organisations”, entities that may be concerned about both security and broader compliance with privacy regulations like the EU GDPR and GDPR. ‘Brazilian equivalent, LGPD – begin this week, by a spokesperson.
“The devices are selling in Latin America, the United States, Europe and the Middle East,” he said, adding that “Brazil and the United States are our biggest markets so far.”
Sikur told us the company has sold around 35,000 handsets since 2015.