BlackBerry wants to offer buyers another secure Android option with its Priv smartphone. The company is publishing a series of blog posts on the subject, and the latest ones offer some interesting info on how it's working to accomplish its goal.
The Priv is Android-based, but BlackBerry claims to have "performed extensive surgery under the hood to augment [the operating system's] privacy and security capabilities." First off, the phone's hardware and boot process are secured by cryptographic keys, used to "verify every layer of the device from hardware to OS to applications in order to make sure they haven’t been tampered with." After that, the Linux kernel comes in—BB claims to have hardened it with a substantial amount of security patches. FIPS 140-2 disk encryption is enabled by default, as well.
The security features don't stop there. Users can opt to use Picture Passwords as a first line of defense. BlackBerry provides its own applications for file sharing, private conferencing, and voice calls, too, and the company claims its communication suite has no backdoors, either. Despite those measures, BlackBerry says the Priv will maintain full access to the Google Play store, which is a sharp contrast to the locked-down experiences provided by other secure handset manufacturers. Users can then use the DTEK app to monitor their security and privacy settings, as well as verify what applications are accessing sensitive data and system resources.
Last but not least, BlackBerry is comitting to a fast security patch cycle, a welcome move given the usual frozen-molasses pace of Android vulnerability patches updates.