Boeing builds self-destructing Android phone to shield top secret info

The aerospace giant Boeing is launching an Android handset that will wipe its data and stop working if someone attempts to tamper with the device.
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

US aerospace firm Boeing has made a secure smartphone that will destroy its data and render itself inoperable if tampered with.

The phone has been designed with the needs of the "US defence and security communities" in mind, and attempts to satisfy security requirements not met by current devices, according to Boeing.

The phone is what Boeing terms a "sealed device", due to the physical and digital countermeasures designed to protect the phone's hardware from interference.

"The Boeing Black phone is manufactured as a sealed device both with epoxy around the casing and with screws, the heads of which are covered with tamper proof covering to identify attempted disassembly," Boeing states in a filing with the US Federal Communications Commission.

"There are no serviceable parts on Boeing's Black phone, and any attempted servicing or replacing of parts would destroy the product," according to the filing, spotted by community site MyCE. "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."

The Boeing Black phone. Image: Boeing

The Black phone will be sold with an end-user non-disclosure agreement, as well as being "marketed and sold in a manner such that low-level technical and operational information about the product will not be provided to the general public".

The handset is driven by a dual-core 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A9-based processor and will run the Android operating system with "enhanced software security policy configuration". It has a 4.3-inch qHD screen with a 540 x 960 resolution display and GSM, WCDMA and LTE connectivity, as well as supporting Bluetooth 2.1 enhanced data rate connections.

Black phones also have a dual-SIM capability that enables users to switch between government and commercial networks.

The phone's listed security features are "embedded FIPS 140-2 key storage, hardware inhibits, trusted modules and configurable OS security policies". The phone supports disk encryption, hardware root of trust and crypto engine, and secure boot.

"Hardware media encryption and configurable inhibit controls are embedded to protect the device, its data, and the transmission of information, significantly reducing the risk of mission compromise due to data loss," according to Boeing.

A modular expansion port allows additional sensors or add-ons to be fitted to the phone to provide satellite connectivity, expanded power capacity, or other additional features. The device also includes a portable digital media interface (PDMI) and a micro USB port. Onboard storage can be expanded via microSD card.

The Black phone weighs 170g and has a 1590 mAh lithium-ion battery.

Another security-focused Android handset, the Silent Circle Blackphone, was made available for pre-order at Mobile World Congress this week.

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