Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
You’ve probably heard the idiom of the fox guarding the hen house — but how about the one of the encrypted phone company run by drug lords?
Okay, that’s obviously not an idiom, but it’s a true story chronicled by Vice’s Joseph Cox. In the story, Cox tells how MPC — a now-seemingly defunct company that apparently sold phones, tablets, and computers running custom firmware with significant encryption protections — was ultimately controlled by two at-large criminal kingpins known as The Brothers.
As Cox’s reporting explains, The Brothers apparently first bought and used encrypted BlackBerrys before hiring developers to make a custom operating system that could theoretically offer them even more privacy and loaded it on phones. The story doesn’t say what type of phones The Brothers use(d), but MPC sold Nexus 5 and 5X phones loaded with a custom OS, which seems likely to be the same one paid for by The Brothers.
MPC even marketed itself to privacy-conscious customers to appear more legit, using images of Edward Snowden in its marketing, for example. MPC also offered to pay Cox to do a paid evaluation of an MPC device. (Cox declined to take payment, though he expressed potential interest in getting more details from the company. MPC never sent a device to him.)
It’s a fascinating and, at times, horrifying story (warning: it describes a murder), but you should go read it.