CopperheadOS, F-Droid, and The Guardian Project Announce New Secure Mobile Ecosystem
While I’m an atheist, if there were a “Holy Trinity” I’d be interested in paying fealty to, it might just be a new partnership announced by three very exciting efforts in the world of DAPS that we explore at the Dark Android Project: Those three being CopperheadOS, F-Droid, and The Guardian Project.
I’ve talked about CopperheadOS before on this very blog, and I was impressed with what I saw and had no reservations in recommending its use. Based on AOSP, it’s the very kind of Android-based operating system that the crypto-economy needs, and really that everyone needs so that they know they have actual control over the hardware that they purchase. In fact, as The Guardian Project Founder and Director, Nathan Freitas put it:
I have been a happy CopperheadOS user since the first moment I installed it, even with running it on a two-generation old, very inexpensive Nexus 5 device. I know I will always have the latest security updates immediately, and that everything on my device is under my control. My Copperhead Nexus is the go-to device in my bag, when I am handling sensitive information, find myself on a network I don’t trust, or am otherwise wary about my communication being tracked, intercepted or tampered with.
Coming from the guy who’s in charge of the The Guardian Project–the very project that allows the world to use Tor via their Android devices along with other forms of secure communications–that’s pretty high praise. The entire suite of apps from The Guardian Project is one of the third or fourth things I recommend installing on any Dark Android device, so if you aren’t familiar with what they do, you need to get on that, as well.
And of course before we talk more about this grand new security and privacy triumvirate that was announced, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the importance of the F-Droid app repository. It is the very first thing I recommend installing on any new Android device as it gives you access to loads of well-made free and open-source apps onto your device, and keeps you from having to use any of Alphabet/Google’s services. F-Droid is the Google Play Store replacement you’ve likely been looking for (if you’ve been looking for one, and you should be).
So put these three groups together and what do you get? Well, in their own words:
Three open-source projects have joined together to announce a new partnership to create an open, verifiably secure mobile ecosystem of software, services and hardware.
That’s right. From hardware, to operating system, to apps, these three companies are going to be building a new mobile ecosystem (Android-based, of course) that sounds like it sets out to achieve everything I really started the Dark Android Project for: Returning the security, privacy, and the possibility for anonymity to our mobile devices. This is incredible exciting to me, and you can read the full announcement at The Guardian Project’s blog on the matter. But this is the exact kind of mobile ecosystem I’ve been wanting since…well…for a very long time. Before 2007 even, really.
And it’s particularly exciting that they mentioned hardware. While there are companies like Silent Circle with their Blackphone line, or even the questionable Archos GranitePhone, these phones have missed some key concepts, in my opinion. First off, running Orbot (Tor from The Guardian Project) on a smartphone can drain the battery pretty hard, and running I2P (available in the F-Droid app repository) causes the same issue…but either of these are the cornerstone of running a secure setup on a mobile device. So at the very least, if these three companies are going to be producing their own hardware, they have the opportunity to put a massive battery (while still having a relatively small device) into the hardware they produce, thus eliminating the power drain disincentive of running Orbot, etc. And they can keep the screen at 1080p or below to also reduce needless battery drain (that QHD screens cause). There are a lot of possibilities here for them to address when it comes to making their own hardware (eliminating the voice co-processor, not using fingerprint scanners, etc.), and with the software already well in hand by all three, I imagine a lot of mental bandwidth can be spared on doing hardware right.
Judging by the announcement made by all this, it sounds like at some point in the near future their will be a crowdfunding campaign for all of this. While I’m often very wary to crowdfund anything these days, I think this new secure mobile ecosystem project will be worth the risk. And all three groups have already proven their chops in delivering the goods with CopperheadOS, the long-running F-Droid app repository, and the phenomenal apps from The Guardian Project. I’ll definitely be keeping everyone posted on that as all of this develops.
And I just want to say that it all feels very vindicating. I’ve been on various media talking about the need for “Dark Android” devices, I’ve given talks at conferences about it, yada yada, and there are always those who look at me as if I’m insane for saying that the bulk of the mobile devices we carry around are inherently insecure, they are infringing on our human liberties, and you don’t really have control as an individual of what you’re holding. And sometimes I think I must be just going a little too far in my thinking because no one else seems to worry about all of this. But then a project such as this alliance comes along and I instantly recognize that, no, other people clearly see the problems with the present mobile ecosystems that we have, and someone else has the guts to say and do something about it.
The Dark Android Project’s need for privacy, security, and control-by-the-individual of their own devices is not singular or alone. And it’s about to get a serious boost.