Telecommunications giant BT is “hardening” the iPhone 7 so that it can securely handle military communications for the UK armed forces, the company said to TechRepublic.
BT is currently in the process of modifying the iPhone 7 for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) such that UK military personnel can use it to safely share state secrets and store sensitive data. Steve Bunn, technical business manager for defence at BT, called the latest Apple flagship the UK MoD’s “device of choice” and informed TechRepublic that the hardened phone will support various security modes that users can calibrate to the sensitivity of the information being handled.
“We’ve been working very closely with them to develop what we’ve commonly called a ‘dual-persona device’”, Bunn said. “Essentially [it] means you can have voice at official and at secret.”
While details regarding the nature of the upgrades were scant due to security reasons, the BT exec also noted that the iPhone 7s would be bolstered with “secure storage containers” to safeguard secret data, potentially within encrypted files or folders. Bunn commented that the work was “going well” overall.
The good news for Apple comes as a blow to Samsung, as its Galaxy Note 4 smartphone was originally selected for the project. However, Bunn states that the Samsung device was eventually jettisoned in favor of the iPhone 7 when it became apparent that its security was inadequate: “As more and more development and testing was done, the security wasn’t deemed to be sufficient.”
Another contributing factor in BT’s decision was the fact that the iPhone 7 already enjoys wide usage within the MoD, according to BT business development director Derek Stretch.
[Update 1/27/2017: BT has issued a reactive statement. “We would like to clarify that the MoD has not expressed any views about the suitability of dual-persona technology from specific handset/technology vendors and is prototyping a range of devices.”]
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