‘Unhackable’: Russian firm develops totally surveillance-proof smartphone

Reuters / Eddie Keogh
Russia is entering the post-Snowden world with style. Its own anti-surveillance smartphone prototype, equipped with the latest in cutting-edge cybersecurity and intended for corporate users, is currently being tested.

This is not Russia’s first foray into smartphones, with the dual-screen YotaPhone making headlines recently with its second incarnation. However, the new project will offer unparalleled, corporate-level securit, when ready. The current version is a prototype and any photos are kept in strict secret.

READ MORE: Russian dual-screen YotaPhone to debut in China

Called the TaigaPhone, the phone will be manufactured by Taiga Systems, 99 percent of which belongs to Natalya Kasperskaya, owner of the InfoWatch group. The device will synergize with other tools provided by the company to its high-profile clients.

According to Izvestia daily, things like photos and work-related files, as well as phone conversations and metadata will not “leak” without the user’s consent, according to Taiga Systems co-owner Aleksey Nagorny.

“The device is entirely our own – the design, the schematics and circuitry. The phone will be manufactured in China,” he said.

The company used Android’s base for the creation of its own Taiga operating system. Inventing one from scratch was too costly and cumbersome.

But the system will also contain several levels of cyber defense, chief among them the ability to completely disable or enable select parts of the system. Nagorny mentioned the camera, as well as location services.

New YotaPhone 2 smartphone. (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)

The phone can also be fashioned into a traditional “slab,” to allow only phone calls. The most extreme version of this setting will enable the user to only see incoming calls. And of course, no secure device would be complete without the ability to switch off your microphone.

All of these settings will require one or two buttons maximum to operate.

What’s more, a signal will alert the user if anyone is trying to hack the microphone or any other key features.

Symantec will cooperate with Taiga Systems on some of the more key security capabilities. Many now know that switching off your phone does not disable the GPS – that’s where Symantec comes in.

Other phones exist with similar capabilities, with the BlackPhone – an Android-based solution from Europe - released four months ago. It boasts information encryption, something the likes of whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have been very vocal about.

READ MORE: 'Secret Santa for post-Snowden era': New app uses Tor-like encryption

Despite the obvious advantages of encryption, high-security devices still aren’t the mainstream even in the corporate sector, for which the TaigaPhone was developed. The situation today is such that standard phones are bought in most cases, with the company installing various add-ons for its employees.

The price and arrival date are being kept under wraps.

According to Nagorny, the company is in talks to equip other makes with the Taiga system soon.