Smartphone case maker Vysk says that handset manufacturers may be hesitant to step up security as it would limit the functionality of their devices, and that an external option is needed to get the best of both worlds.
This is why the company has created three lines of phone cases that add something mildly akin to BlackBerry Balance’s encryption mechanism to iPhones, and soon to Androids as well.
Combined with Vysk’s messaging and gallery apps, the cases add various levels of data, camera and voice encryption to unsecured smartphones.
“The problem with offering phones with full features is that as companies move towards being more secure, they will have to put restrictions on what their devices can do,” said Victor Cocchia, CEO of Vysk, referring to manufacturers like Google, Apple and Samsung. “Once you limit what a consumer can do with their device, they start realizing that there are other phones out there.”
Instead of restricting usage, Vysk tries to offer security and encryption options when a user deems it necessary.
The base model, which retails for $39.99, features a physical shutter for the phone’s rear-facing camera and grants users access to Vysk’s messaging and gallery apps that encrypt locally and also in the cloud. At $99.99, the next level adds a 2200 mAh battery to the mix. At the $229.99 flagship level, the case features a slew of hardware add-ons including a microphone jammer that replaces the phone’s native mic with an encrypted one, an HD audio processor, and a dedicated cryptographic processor.
There is even a $9.95 per month subscription option for users who want their calls to go through Vysk’s own encrypted network.
“With the flagship model, we definitely have a targeted audience which is anyone with a fiduciary responsibility,” Cocchia told CDN. He cited law firms, doctors, corporate executives, governments and other enterprise clients that could make use of these full-blown security measures. Because the options add to functionality rather than restrict it and are meant to eventually be compatible with a large variety devices, the solution is meant to encourage Bring-your-own-device (BYOD).
“That’s one of the reasons why we started the business,” Cocchia said.
For now, Vysk only offers secure alternatives to the photo gallery and messaging apps. Although Cocchia said that the solution does not go back to encrypt existing data on the phone or secure non-Vysk apps, he assured that more secure apps are on their way, including email.
While Vysk has been criticised for not being able to prove that their technology works, the product has been recognized as an 2015 Consumer Electronics Show Innovation Award honoree.
As of publication, the Vysk smartphone cases are available only online and at BestBuy in the United States and only for select iPhone models. However, Vysk is working on Android support and is in talks with retailers, including Amazon Canada to bring the products here in the new year.
“We want to make privacy easy,” said Cocchia. “By doing what we’re doing, you don’t have to change your phone, your service, or your habits. When you’re ready to go private, you flip a switch.”