Silent killer: Update to Blackphone's Silent OS intentionally breaks unauthorized devices
Security may come with compromise.
Silent Circle, makers of the security-focused Blackphone and Blackphone 2, recently released Silent OS 3.0.8. The update seems to come as a statement Silent Circle made earlier this month warning customers not to buy Blackphone devices through third party vendors. Sellers on eBay and other sites have been offering seemingly authentic Blackphones at steep discounts, but it seems that many of these devices are counterfeits. They are most likely phones made by the same manufacturer and loaded with a custom ROM made to imitate Silent OS.
Silent Circle has been working to stop the sale of these unauthorized devices. Silent OS 3.0.8 looks like the final measure in that plan. Users of phones purchased from third parties are reporting that the update “bricked” their phones. When a phone is “bricked,” core functionality breaks and the phone becomes unusable. In several cases, the phones’ cellular connectivity would fail or the OS would fail to start. Silent Circle has responded by saying this update was intentional and meant to stop unauthorized sales of its devices.
While third party buyers may not be able to use Silent OS 3.0.8 on their Blackphones, some clever folks over at XDA Developers have released a ROM of Silent OS 2.0.8. The ROM reverts the Blackphone to an older build of Android (namely 5.1.1) but restores wireless functionality.
If you purchased a Blackphone from someone other than Silent Circle, this may be an update you want to skip.