The FBI recently arrested Vincent Ramos, the CEO of Phantom Secure, for allegedly providing criminal organizations with mobile phones that were modified to help hide illegal activities.
On the Canadian company’s website, Phantom Secure describes itself as has having a singular goal – “the successful protection and preservation of our universal human right to privacy.” This translates to having Blackberry and Samsung devices modified to ensure secure and encrypted device-to- device communication capabilities.
In this day and age it doesn’t sound too far-fetched to have a device that is ultra-secure from hackers, viruses and malware. However, things get a little murkier when the company also touts the ability to work around video surveillance, government agencies, listening devices and wire taps … on its website.
In a first-of- its-kind charge, the Department of Justice has accused Ramos and four associates of not just knowingly supplying the phones to criminals, but specifically designing them for illegal activity. Phantom Secure modifies the devices by removing the camera, microphone, web browser, GPS, and standard messaging platforms. It then embeds software that allows for sending secure messages that are routed overseas to they’re difficult to trace.
Neither BlackBerry or Samsung has been accused of any wrongdoing. The FBI estimates that up to 20,000 Phantom Secure devices may currently be in use by a number of major crime syndicates, including the largest Mexican drug cartel.
On their website, the company states: “We are a law-abiding company that is permitted to deliver encrypted communication services. We do not condone the use of our service for any type of illegal activities. Our company was founded as a means to provide businesses and people the opportunity to communicate in private. Unfortunately, there will be people that will use this technology for acts we do not condone but this should not be the reason why our universal human right to privacy should be taken away.”
Phantom Secure’s network has been disabled, but it’s estimated that the company recorded over $80 million in sales since its founding a decade ago.