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Ultra-secure Smartphones and the Battle for Privacy

It’s been more than a year since Edward Snowden leaked classified documents and prompted new concerns about privacy in the digital world. But those concerns are not waning — especially when it comes to smartphones, which have become a target for hackers around the world. As BlackBerry, once a major manufacturer of secure smartphones, shifts its focus to software and services, a number of companies are trying to meet the growing demand and fill the void by producing ultra-secure smartphones that use both old and new technology, including:

  • Encryption: Most ultra-secure smartphones encrypt, or encode, messages and phone calls, making it extremely difficult for hackers to make sense of the content they intercept.
  • App preferences: Unlike most smartphones today, which ask users for permission to access all their personal data, some ultra-secure smartphones give users the ability to control what kinds of data the apps can access.
  • Virtual private networks (VPNs): Some smartphones use software that turns public wireless networks into VPNs, insulating users from others who may be sharing the same connection.
  • Self-destruct: Finally, some smartphones even have a self-destruct mechanism that erases all data and renders the phone inoperable if it’s tampered with.

But even the most secure phones can’t be completely secure. Just ask the company that developed the Blackphone, an ultra-secure phone that went on sale to the public just last week.

I mention all of this because it raises an important question: How much is a company’s privacy worth?

Cyber insurance provides businesses coverage for the most common cyber exposures, including data breaches, data replacement and restoration, cyber extortion, and business interruption. But what are the costs associated with each of those exposures? That’s a question the insurance industry is starting to get a better handle on.

To learn about ISO’s various cyber offerings, visit the ISO Cyber Risk Solutions website,, or email me at You can also follow me on Twitter @doughertyshawn.

Shawn Dougherty

Shawn Dougherty is the assistant vice president of ISO's Specialty Commercial Lines Division. He is responsible for providing the overall direction, leadership, and client service for ISO's cyber liability (e-commerce), D&O (management protection), businessowners, crime and fidelity, financial institutions, employment-related practices liability, and professional liability (other than medical) insurance programs. He is also the ISO product manager for the Lloyd's Wordings Repository, an electronic database of policy wordings and clauses regularly used within the London market. Mr. Dougherty has worked at ISO since 1988.

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