Dark Windows Phone?
What? Really? You’re telling me there’s a way to do solid encrypted communications like the Dark Android Project main page talks about and that I’ve described for some iOS devices with Windows Phone, as well?
Well…no. Not really.
But I’ve never really talked about the viability (if any) of the Windows 10 Mobile platform when it comes to achieving what I call “DAPS” with your device (Dencentralization, Anonymity, Privacy, and Security). So, I figured, what the Hell?
To start, Microsoft has become a VERY different company in the past year or so (really, ever since Satya Nadella took over, whom I controversially named Sovryn Tech “Person of the Year 2014” on my podcast). Microsoft has also recently made a lot of firsts and breakthroughs in the realm of technology for consumers. I’ve even speculated that–in accordance with the statement of one Microsoft engineer–Windows may eventually become open-source. The cross-platform nature of much of Microsoft’s software and apps that goes way above and beyond just porting Office to OSX. Consider that when you buy an iOS device or an Android device, you can effectively turn it into a “Windows Phone” already just based on the raw amount of apps available that cover everything from scanning documents, to cloud storage, to Office, to music. It’s incredible to consider.
Now, that’s not to say it’s a good thing. While I’d certainly recommend using Microsoft’s apps over Alphabet’s, that’s really the major reason I’d ever recommend using it: to help tank Alphabet/Google into the murky depths of market failures where it really belongs. Microsoft still has a long way to go before they could be considered “human liberties friendly”, but I’m open to the notion that they may actually be trying for that, at least as much as Apple does (and most “hackers” seem to have no problem with using Apple stuff).
But what gets lost in a lot of the shuffle that I just described is that fact that Microsoft is still pushing its own mobile platform: Windows 10 Mobile (or what is colloquially called “Windows Phone”). While a lot of strides have been made to make it easy for Android and iOS developers (and Windows developers, too, with Windows 10 Universal Apps) to port their apps to Windows 10 Mobile, I’m not sure when or how this will be incentivized given the current market share that Windows Phones have (and it generally never leaves the single digits in percentiles in various countries).
Popular apps with a privacy focus like Telegram are already in beta on the platform, but that about covers it. I’d love to see Open Whisper Systems port the Signal Suite over to Windows 10 Mobile, but I imagine even with the ease of doing that now, why would they bother? They probably never will.
More or less out-of-the-box, when it comes to real open-source privacy and security with Windows Phone, you’re screwed. But there are a couple of little-discussed possibilities and advantages.
First, let’s talk about the major advantage of the platform: No one is gunning for it. You’re (largely) not a target using Windows Phone. Because seemingly practically no one uses it, no one is interested in maliciously attacking the platform, generally. With Universal Apps this may become a moot point, since Windows is still the dominant operating system on the planet (with only Android besting it, perhaps), that’s still a major target for malcontents (such as ALL governments and others), and so maybe what gets built to affect a Universal App will affect Windows Phone, as well. But there’s still something to be said for not being seen as “big enough to matter”, and Windows 10 Mobile definitely fits that bill.
A byproduct advantage of being such a small platform might seem counter-intuitive at first: Windows 10 Mobile doesn’t have a lot of apps (when compared to iOS and Android). That’s why you never considered using it in the first place? Sure, I understand that. But having few apps actually reinforces a very simple and secure philosophy: “Software Minimalism“. Software minimalism is the idea of using only what you need and even sticking with stock apps much of the time to keep the amount of security holes at a minimum due to less bloat or even options. Like I said, I recognize this seems counter-intuitive, but it actually statistically works.
Now, for the possibilities of achieving some kind of DAPS-style setup with a Windows Phone. Windows 10 Universal Apps is the major key here for this one, and it comes down to something that makes Dark Android itself so possible: the web browser. If Firefox or something based off of open-source software in some fashion were to become a Universal App–and it could run browser extensions–then things get really interesting. Using PGP encryption extensions like Mailvelope, or even using secure e-mail solutions like Tutanota, Protonmail, or Whiteout.io makes secure communications possible. Granted, some of these you could use with the built-in Microsoft browser, too, but if extensions could be made available, a whole new world opens up really.
Also, an area that Windows Phone has failed on historically is with Bitcoin wallets. Not that they don’t exist for the platform, but they’re not the best options. Again, however, the web browser comes to the rescue with one of my favorite wallet options: RushWallet. You could even use MyNXT.info as an NXT wallet if you favor that particular cryptocurrency.
(Relatively) secure monetary transactions and secure PGP communications–along with other tricks I haven’t even broken into through the web browser interface–are possible with Windows 10 Mobile. I’m not saying go out and buy a Windows Phone or anything, or that it would be the preferred platform to do any of this one, but I did want to inform you that it is possible.
That said, there’s one last little trick that is supposedly up-and-coming that is somewhat unique to Windows Phones…
This is where things get really interesting. “Continuum” is a feature built-in to Windows 10 that allows the operating system to adapt to whatever various hardware it happens to detect. This means that a laptop/tablet hybrid knows when it is a laptop or when it is a tablet, and the OS will adjust accordingly. This is apparently going to be possible soon with Windows 10 Mobile devices like Windows Phones. With a “Continuum Dock” being released (potentially in October or sooner), you’ll be able to take your compatible Windows Phone and connect it to this dock which is in turn connected to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse…and then use your phone just like it were a PC. This is an ability that Ubuntu Phone has been touting for years and had yet to make a serious reality, and amazingly Microsoft may beat everyone to the punch on this. One device to do it all. That Windows Phone, phablet or smaller (new Lumia models are coming this year, one of them being a phablet), can become a full-on PC. I consider this to be rather groundbreaking, but I’m only looking at it from what is possible, not from what is reality (because the dock for this hasn’t been released yet). Regardless, it’s worth mentioning this ability. It doesn’t add anything to the DAPS end of things, and of course I generally recommend steering clear of smartphones entirely (those damn non-secure SIM cards), but it is a pretty wild concept.
Again, I wouldn’t recommend this if you really want privacy and security. An Android device or the newest iPod Touch are still your best bets as far as that goes. But it is possible to implement some Dark Android principles into your Windows Phone experience. And hey, if you’re really into Cortana, it’s the top platform you could buy in to.