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Privacy Tech | Vysk's QS1 makes the case for hardware-based privacy Related reading: DHS awards $1.1M funding as part of the Data Privacy project

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While conducting business with clients overseas, Vysk Communications CEO Victor Cocchia continued to run into a similar problem. 

“A lot of my clients wouldn’t talk on the phone because they knew that the phones weren’t secured,” says Cocchia. “They are in countries where privacy is a lot more of an issue where people understand it’s a much more mature topic.”

Cocchia found himself worn down. Flying 20 hours for a two-hour meeting can be tiring, so Cocchia wanted to develop a way to deliver truly private communications. He knew software has its limitations, so a hardware option would be the best way to go.

Enter the QS1. 

The Vysk Quantum Secure 1 is a smartphone case designed to secure voice calling, and allow users to have complete control over their privacy. On Thursday, it won the HPE-IAPP Innovation Award in the technology innovation category at P.S.R., here in San Jose, Calif. 

The QS1 gives users several different ways to lock up their phone. The case has its own speaker, microphone and audio processor, but the two mechanical devices at the top and bottom of the case take privacy to the next level.

When activated, the two devices produce pressure waves to jam the phone’s microphones, preventing malicious entities from hearing the conversation.

“If someone is taking over your phone and they’ve taken over your microphone, they are not going to hear anything but a buzzing sound,” Cocchia explained during a phone interview with Privacy Tech. “It’s not a signal that can be turned up or down and it’s not software. It’s actually air. It’s not vulnerable to attacks from outside.”

In order to make these capabilities a reality, Vysk had to file a patent for the jammer technology. After it was created, Vysk tested the jammer’s functionality by bringing in a voice-extraction specialist. Vysk and the specialist conducted 72 phone calls to see if a voice could be decrypted using numerous filters. Through all the phone calls, not even a syllable went through, and the results stayed the same through tests in Europe and Latin America.

Cocchia said the QS1 device stands out in the privacy industry thanks to its separate ecosystem. The microphone jamming technology is joined together with the ability to shutter the phone’s camera, and its TrueE2E solution to provide end-to-end protected encryption for a user’s phone calls.

For Cocchia and Vysk, allowing users to control the privacy options on the QS1 is a major selling point.

With computers, credit cards and phones suffering breaches on a consistent basis, Cocchia says consumers feel helpless. With the QS1, the user finally has the ability to fight back, he added.

“They can decide when they want to be private and when they don’t,” said Cocchia. “They can be private on a phone that they’re comfortable with. We’re not asking them to change their phone, or their service, and most importantly, we don’t ask to change their habits.”

User habits are an important part of not only the success of the QS1, but a bigger issue facing privacy methodology. Cocchia discussed the reasons why software privacy options are more popular than hardware. One of the reasons for the hesitation to move to hardware privacy tools is the lack of desire from users to change their behaviors. The QS1 is designed to eliminate those concerns, according to Cocchia.

“What we’ve done is make privacy easy,” said Cocchia. “By just flipping a switch, you become private, and at the same time you can still tweet, text, and do all the things you want to do, but still make your phone private.”

Cocchia also believes software is the more popular software option since it is “easy.”

“Once you program [software], it’s easy to sell. It’s easy to make. It’s easy to put on,” said Cocchia. “Easy doesn’t really combat a hard problem. You need to take a hard look at the problem and come up with a hard solution. In this case, hardware is the way to combat it.”

The misconception is one Cocchia and Vysk are combating as they continuously educate users on the importance of privacy.

While the QS1 is marketed toward knowledgeable B2B and B2T companies, Vysk knows they need to ensure their users know what’s at stake when they leave their technology unprotected. Cocchia says Vysk is a company built on respecting privacy, and it’s their job to let users know of the dangers they face. With Vysk conducting sales on the QS1 on four different continents, the amount of users the company needs to reach is vast.

“It’s only going to continue to be a greater issues as technology keeps advancing. Unfortunately, the bad guys are always a step ahead, and they are developing technology that trumps the technology that comes out,” said Cocchia. “We want people to be aware, to take precaution, and we want them to know that they are vulnerable. The way to do that is to make sure we continue to educate.”

Top Photo: Victor Cocchia accepts the HPE-IAPP Innovation Award on behalf of Vysk.

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