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DarkMatter sells first batch of most secure phones to top UAE officials

Company in talks with GCC, Far East and European customers, Al Bannai says

  • Attendees stand in front of an electronic screen displaying personalized emoji characters at the Samsung EleImage Credit: Bloomberg
  • Faisal Al Bannai, Founder and CEO of DarkMatter Pudio.Image Credit: Naushad K. Cherrayil/©Gulf News
Gulf News


DarkMatter, the UAE-headquartered security solutions provider, has started production of its most secure communications smartphone — Katim — and has already begun to deliver the first batch.

Katim in Arabic means silence. The phone was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress last year.

Faisal Al Bannai, Founder and CEO of DarkMatter, told Gulf News that while smartphones have become a vital tool for business users and high-level officials, at the same time, they also offer a vast attack surface for cybercriminals to gain access and compromise the sensitive information stored and consumed via these types of devices.

The phone runs on Android 7 OS version but does not have access to the Google apps store. The device provides its own secure voice, video, email, news and messaging apps.

“The device does not have the stock Android. We take the OS and add more security features on top of it to safeguard against vulnerabilities, and features end-to-end data encryption and secure storage for keys. We have multiple layers of tamper-proof right from the boot level,” he said.

Al Bannai said the four elements of Katim’s security are the Katim phone, Katim OS, Katim Secure communications application suite and Katim Cyber Command Centre.

He said the first phones have been sold to high-level UAE customers such as government officials and large corporations who need to protect their data and communions. The phones are not aimed at consumers. He did not disclose the number of units sold but said it is in thousands.

“We are talking to a number of other customers in the GCC, Far East and Europe and they have shown a keen interest in the device,” he said.

The phone is manufactured in China but the hardware and software is handled by the DarkMatter team.

When asked whether other governments would use a UAE-based secure device, he said that sale of DarkMatter phones to foreign government or a large enterprise will take time and not happen overnight.

“We will break the market over time and it is our ability to show a really strong set of features. They can review the security code and we can open the entire box and they can verify the entire solution and get a high assurance that it does not contain any backdoors and it is extremely secure. Many of the other vendors do not open the entire box and let others see their code,” he said. A “backdoor” refers to a security bypass that allows non-authorised person to access a system.

Other governments do not buy directly from the manufacturers, he said, and added they [governments] buy through their prime contractors or trusted partners.

The phone is powered by Qualcomm 821 processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage capacity. It houses 12MP rear and 5MP front cameras.

“We plan to launch other versions of the phone and announce other platforms for secure communications during the second or third quarter of this year, not software wise but hardware wise,” he said.