Blackphone update bricking non-genuine, grey market phones

JC Torres - Jan 30, 2017, 4:45 am CST
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Blackphone update bricking non-genuine, grey market phones

It isn’t uncommon for consumers to try and buy smartphones from resellers, even those online, if it means saving a few bucks or getting access to a device not available locally. For manufacturers and its authorized distributors, it means potentially lost profits. For users, however, it also means running the risk of buying a fake or clone, one that is deemed not only non-genuine but even potentially dangerous. In order to curb what looks like a growing grey market for its Blackphone 2 devices, Silent Circle rolled out a software update to unsuspecting users that practically disabled their devices.

Just a few days ago, Silent Circle issued a warning for interested buyers not to buy their devices from eBay and only directly from it or, if outside the US, from its authorized resellers. Apparently the warning went unheeded and Silent Circle resorted to drastic measures. It pushed out an update to its Andorid-based SilentOS, version 3.0.8 to be exact, whose purpose seems to be and only be to disable access to the phone. Affected users who contact customer support would then be told that their device is an unauthorized model and, therefore, cannot be supported.

Silent Circle heavy-handed move might have some justification, if a bit twisted. The Blackphone 2 is supposed to be a smartphone that was built with security and privacy in mind, with special hardware and software features to protect the user from unwanted intrusion. Silent Circle, however, cannot guarantee such protections if the phone didn’t come from it. Such unauthorized devices have either been made by Silent Circle’s own manufacturing partners, in surplus of what the company has allowed, or by other manufacturers who have cloned the hardware but don’t have the license to run SilentOS.

Justified or not, Silent Circle’s solution to the problem is bound to be unpopular. Affected owners, however, might have no remedy, legal or otherwise, as they knowingly purchased the device from unauthorized sources. Their only recourse at this point would be to install a different Android ROM, though they will no longer reap the benefits of SilentOS’ features.

VIA: Ars Technica


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