Mobile Technology

Boeing reveals new spy phone

Boeing reveals new spy phone
The Boeing Black boasts two SIM cards, allowing operators to switch between government and commercial networks (Photo: Boeing)
The Boeing Black boasts two SIM cards, allowing operators to switch between government and commercial networks (Photo: Boeing)
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The Boeing Black boasts two SIM cards, allowing operators to switch between government and commercial networks (Photo: Boeing)
The Boeing Black boasts two SIM cards, allowing operators to switch between government and commercial networks (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing has stepped outside the field of aeronautics to develop a security focused smartphone – the Boeing Black. The device will be unavailable to the general public, being designed from the ground up to be the go-to device for the US Defense and Security communities. It offers what Boeing describes as “trusted access to data," allowing said agencies to carry out highly sensitive missions.

Product specifications

Boeing has made it clear that due to the covert nature of the device, the inner workings of the phone will not be made available to the general public. However some basic specifications for the spy phone have been released.

According to its product page, the Boeing Black runs a heavily customized version of Google's Android operating system and weighs in at 170 g (5.9 oz) with a 4.3 x 540 x 960-inch qHD display. The Bluetooth-enabled smartphone has room for two SIM cards, allowing the user to switch between government and commercial networks.

There's no word on how much internal storage the device will carry, but it does offer a microSD expansion slot. The handset is powered by dual 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A9 CPUs, supports LTE connectivity and hosts a 1,590 mAh battery.

Whilst these specifications appear underwhelming when compared with flagship handsets such as the newly announced Samsung Galaxy S5, it's fair to say that the Black isn't aiming to compete with the cream of the Android crop.

The device was designed with modularity in mind. The back of the phone slides off to allow various modules such as additional sensing equipment or satellite connectivity, giving the phone a high level of flexibility for a secure mobile device.

Security features

Boeing Black is in effect a sealed unit, utilizing covered screws and epoxy glue to seal the casing. According to papers sent to the Federal Communications Commission, "Any attempt to break open the casing of the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable."

This also means that it is impossible to service or swap out components within the phone.

On top of these physical safety measures, the Boeing Black boasts a plethora of software security elements covering a wide range of functions. One such example of the data protection software utilized in Boeing Black is disk encryption, a system that effectively protects stored information by converting it into an unreadable code.

We reached out to Boeing for comment on the device, with the company simply stating that “Boeing Black delivers unique embedded hardware and software security solutions, operating system policy controls, and compatibility with leading mobile device management systems."

Due to the fact that the phone's target client base is the US intelligence and defense community, no price or release date has been announced by the aeronautics giant.

Source: Boeing [PDF]

Jon A.
Wait, is it modular, or sealed? I don't think you can have it both ways.
The PDF just says it has an expansion port.
So will this be enough to prevent the NSA from spying on its sister departments?
Or will there always be a back door to every comms device created by/for the US.
Wonderful. Yet one more thing the government doesn't need to spend money on...but it will, with wild abandon.
One thing bothers me. With this small battery, android, 2 sim cards, bluetooth, satellite calls option, data encryption, LTE, etc. power draining specs, the phone seems to be very unsuitable for heavy use. It would be very unreliable. I think that with this battery the phone could die for less than a day of use. Tripple the battery and this could be the right device. The chinese do it already.
Mel Tisdale
Two days in a row with black 'phone releases! Do they know something that the rest of us don't?
I'm with Rt1583, on this. I bet it will cost the earth and we won't get to find out just how much that is.
I wish they would invent things to keep us safe from those who invent things to keep us safe.
Take it from me, as one who ran into this little issue when selling security product, if the only owners are security cleared before they are able to use a phone so clearly called `Boeing`, that is about as much use to the security community as a chocolate candelabra in a sauna.
May as well wear a bobble hat with `CIA` written on it.
There's a time for self-promotion. This ain't it Boeing.
*Every* time some smartypants invents a "secure" gadget, they wind up with egg on their face when it gets hacked. And you can guarantee it will be FIPS compatible (that is to say: contain NSA backdoors so nobody in govt can get away with undesirable behavior, like, whistleblowing or anything).
@snave is right - if you ever see anyone using that phone, you know you're in trouble.
I bought a software firewall for my mac, hacked in about 2 days. This is a hacker infested breeding ground, I'm relatively confident it will get hacked.
For the government, they would say NSA's monitoring is legal as they do it for the sake of the whole country's security.
However, on a personal level, it is illegal for us to monitor other's information without the user's permission. The monitoring tools like Micro Keylogger are not illegal. It totally depends on the way how we use it.
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