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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Abu Dhabi's DarkMatter unveils its secure Katim phone

Device already shipping to UAE customers with interest from overseas

DarkMatter's Katim secure mobile device, first announced last year, has begun shipping to UAE customers. Eric Gaillard / Reuters
DarkMatter's Katim secure mobile device, first announced last year, has begun shipping to UAE customers. Eric Gaillard / Reuters

Abu Dhabi-based cyber security firm DarkMatter unveiled its flagship secure Katim Android phone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday, the latest element in what it describes as its ‘holistic’ approach to threats that target personal devices.

The device, first announced last February, has already begun shipping to UAE-based customers, DarkMatter chief executive officer Faisal Al Bannai told The National. The company's initial run of “a few thousand” handsets - which are sold directly to government and corporate clients and are not available via traditional retail channels - have already sold out.

“Our first customer base that had the initial batch [of phones] is UAE-based, and we’ve been talking to a number of other customers,” said Mr Al Bannai. “The interest we’ve got is from GCC and outside from the Far East and Europe.” He declined to give further details.

Cybercrimes cost global businesses between $445-600 billion per year, up from between $345-445bn in 2014, according to research published last month by cybersecurity company McAfee and US-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies. As illegal activities go, cybercrime’s impact trails only government corruption and narcotics trafficking in its economic impact, the research estimated.

The Katim phone forms a part of DarkMatter’s Katim cybersecurity suite, first unveiled at last year’s Mobile World Congress.

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The 5.2-inch Katim smartphone uses a hardened version of the Android operating system, whose features includes a full software stack check when the device is booted, a data-wipe function in case of a serious security breach, and shield mode to disable recording functions.

Mr Al Bannai stressed that a secure Android device alone could not protect corporations and governments from cyberattacks.

“If we only had to rely on [Android security updates] then everyone in this hall would be okay from a security point of view,” he said, referring to other mobile manufacturers showcasing their latest handsets.

“You need to look at your systems, your network, your apps, the process by which it was implemented, all of it together. “

New mobile malware grew by 60 per cent globally year-on-year in the third quarter of last year, according to McAfee, fuelled by a big increase in Android screen-locking ransomware.

Mr Al Bannai noted that major online breaches worldwide had increased “exponentially” over the past 48 months, compared with the previous period of the same length, even as spending on cybersecurity continues to rise.

“The sophistication of criminals or governments is increasing, but it’s also because customers are trying to find a silver bullet to solve their security issues,” he said.

“You can’t solve it unless you have a holistic approach to security.”

DarkMatter also announced the availability of its Katim email application, enabling end-to-end encrypted communication between Katim users, with external users able to participate via secure web access.

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