Over the years, Android, iOS and Windows Mobile operating systems have improved by leaps and bounds. Among the many improvements, one area that has always been a focus is security features and tools to keep your identity and data protected. These include malware protection, private browsing, biometric authentication, secured app drawers and built-in antivirus protection, but all in all, the goal has been to ensure that user data on the device is as secure as possible.
However, like we have seen over the last few months, both iOS and Android OS which dominate over 95 per cent market share globally are vulnerable to malware, trojans, adware and many other types of malicious code. Some of these can help hackers gain root access to your phone, steal your personal and financial details, monitor your browsing activities or install other malware which may brick your phone. While it is easy to avoid downloading malicious files to your phone by employing careful browsing habits, device security also relies heavily upon how the operating system and the hardware work together to protect personal information. For example, on an iPhone, the biometric data is stored on a separate chip which cannot be directly accessed by any app. In similar ways, certain device makers have created smartphones that try to plug as many points of failure and if you’re looking for a secure, commercially available smartphone, we’ve got a few picks for you.
Launched in November of last year, BlackBerry DTEK60 may seem a bit too pricey at Rs 39,700 but its suite of security features can outshine any other modern smartphone available in India. While it runs the latest Android OS, it enjoys BlackBerry’s ‘zero-day’ upgrade promise which means any security patches or software upgrades released by Google will be immediately installed on the phone without any delay. This advantage is not enjoyed by any Android phones aside from Google’s Nexus and Pixel phones. The phone also features a DTEK™ by BlackBerry app which alerts users if their privacy is at risk from malicious apps or software. It does so by monitoring app and software activities at all times. The phone also features BlackBerry’s Full Enterprise Mobility Management Support along with Android™ for Work and Google Play™ for Work services. This suite includes WatchDox which facilitates encrypted and secure file-sharing, Strong Authentication by BlackBerry VPN solution, BBM Protected tool for encrypted messaging, BES12 for secure cross-platform management and SecuSUITE for Enterprise for instant voice and text messaging.
All these features and tools help protect the DTEK60 from powerful malware and other viruses which can penetrate ordinary Android phones by exploiting operating system vulnerabilities. Aside from these features, DTEK60 comes with 21-MP and 8-MP cameras, a 5.5-inch Quad HD display, up to 2TB of MicroSD storage and a 3,000 mAh battery which make it among the best Android phones out there.
This latest handset from Apple’s stable offers the best protection among all iPhones thanks to iOS 10 as well as other built-in security settings. The hardware in conjunction with iOS 10 allows users to encrypt not only saved data but also data that they have been backed up via iTunes. Users can also set up the iPhone 7 to automatically erase data after 10 failed passcode attempts as well as to auto-lock after a few seconds of idle time. iOS 10 in iPhone 7 also allows for two-factor authentication for added protection and empowers users to deactivate several lock screen functions to keep their data secure. These include notifications, Wallet updates, Siri, Home Control and Reply with Message. By tapping on Reset Advertising Identifier in Settings, users can also deter hackers who may try to track them via ads. Apple also offers great protection to iPhone users thanks to its completely locked down ecosystem of hardware, software and apps. Unlike on Android, iOS will not let you install an app unless it is from the App Store, eliminating a major cause of malware infection.
The best part about Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL phones is that they are the first phones to receive software upgrades and security patches as and when they are available. Additionally, Google’s Pixel phones use file-based encryption instead of fill-disk encryption. This method locks individual files with different encryption keys instead of locking the entire disk with one. ARM’s TrustZone software in Pixel phones also utilises a Verified Boot process to prevent decryption of encryption keys in case the OS has been modified by outside parties. At the same time, the software also makes the waiting period between each failed login attempt longer, which means that a hacker will have to spend as long as four years to successfully guess your phone’s four-point lock screen pattern!
HP Elite x3
While not widely-known, HP’s Elite x3 phablet is an ideal phone for enterprise users who require highly secure and fast smartphones to perform their tasks. This is because HP says it can function as a desktop, laptop, and a smartphone at the same time thanks to the Windows 10 Continuum feature. The phone can be connected to a 12.5-inch dock as well as to a laptop for effortless data transfers and interoperability. For user security, the Elite x3 comes with an iris scanner and a fingerprint scanner for dual authentication. The phone also employs an always-locked system which ensures that it gets locked every time the display turns off. To add to that, you can also utilise a VPN system for added security by paying a little more. Other security features in the Elite x3 include FIPS 140-2 Cryptography, Secure Boot in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 128-bit key Unified Image Encryption, 256-bit key Full Disk Encryption, Anti-roll back and fTPM 2.0 security. The phone is also equipped with Enterprise grade VPN as well as 128 key Bitlocker encryption which keeps messages, call records, e-mails and stored files protected from external threats.
It is essential to know that at the end of the day, only you are responsible for the safety of the data on your smartphone. No matter how secure a smartphone’s hardware and software may be, if you are careless about where you download your apps from or what kind of websites you visit.