Cirotta stops hacking and data privacy breaches by putting security in a phone case

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Cirotta aims to stop phone hacking and data privacy breaches by turning smartphone cases into electronic security devices.

The idea is a new way to create a physical security barrier between cybercriminals and the data on a smartphone. Tel Aviv Israel-based Cirottta, which has its roots in the military, said the cases offer full protection while allowing full operation of your smartphone.

The proprietary anti-surveillance and anti-hacking technologies come at a price — about $200, which makes this a pretty expensive phone case — which is why they’re aimed at the military, security officials, government officials, VIPs, and executives who need serious protection.

Cirotta is the product of the Israeli army and a father and son security team. CEO Shlomi Erez, owner of Terra Real-Estate and reserve colonel in the Israeli Air Force, started the company in 2019 with his son Eran Erez, chief operating officer and once member of the Israeli Air Force Intelligence Special Forces.

“The idea was my father’s, but I was the executor. We have a military background, and that’s a point we thought about when we looked at it from a political and technical perspective,” Eran Erez said in an interview with VentureBeat. “No one trusts each other. In politics, everyone absorbs each other. And in the tech world, we saw that we have a lot of business intelligence,” where theft of business information is routine.

How it works

The back of a Cirotta suitcase.

The company said it holds six patents for the technology and can create multiple configurations to meet the needs of mobile users. The cases are independent, do not use your phone and are not network specific. They also don’t come with apps.

The Cirotta case can block all camera lenses, preventing hackers from using cameras to measure the phone’s environment. They can prevent unwanted audio or video recording, call tracking and unauthorized calls. The company says it can also prevent operating system hacks and data wiping when enabled.

Using specialized security algorithms to bypass a phone’s active noise filtering system, they can also block the threat of remote use of the microphone and ignore the global positioning system (GPS navigation) to block location detection. (This was reportedly one way Ukraine has been able to target Russian military generals during the war).

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As for the generals is Russia, they were likely targeted because they were carrying civilian smartphones with GPS locations and compromised networks allowing access to that information.

“In our case, it’s impossible to attack the case because we don’t have electricity from the phone and we don’t connect to Wi-Fi,” Eran Erez said.

Shlomi Erez and Eran Erez are the father-son founders of Cirotta.

The cases can also wipe out detectable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections and neutralize Near Field Communications (NFC). Those networks allow people close to a user to hack into a phone.

Cyber ​​criminals actively look for vulnerabilities in smartphones to exploit. These include Wi-Fi connections, Bluetooth, GPS, microphones and even cameras. Once connected to a phone, criminals scrub a device for personal information such as financial information, personal identifiers, contacts, etc., Cirotta said.

But beyond the connected phone, it is possible to load malware onto an iPhone even if it is disabled, as a new feature in iOS 15 allows users to locate a phone that is disabled because the chip itself is sending a signal via Bluetooth, Near Field Communication (NFC) and Ultra-Wideband (UWB), Cirotta said.

One of the ways to prevent microphones from dropping out is to mute them inside the housing so they can’t pick up any sound. Security is often provided by location, Eran Erez said, as VIPs must be monitored 24 hours a day for their own protection. At the same time, you don’t want potential hackers to know where you are, as that could compromise your security.

And sometimes hackers hack into a low-level employee’s location information if they know that employee is near a high-ranking executive. Some companies have used the case in the past to provide security, such as Privoro, which has a much larger case and is aimed at the military market. The devices all use a concept known as hardware isolation.

The advantage of using the case is that the device is always on the phone. And you can also build extra security hardware into the case that is not on the phone, which is always hackable. The case weighs about 7 grams, so it doesn’t add much weight to your smartphone. And it’s not a huge, bizarrely big thing, either. The iPhone cases are ready but the Android cases will be ready early next year.

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“We use a phone case because we can be so close to your phone without needing any software. We are 100% hardware based as there is no connection to the phone. It’s 100% embedded in the case,” Eran Erez said.

The security box does not use any of the ports. So it is basically an independent hardware device wrapped around a hardware device.

“The advantage is that you don’t have to carry another hardware device with you,” says Eran Erez.

It has its own CPU, battery and memory system. And it has its own separate port for charging, separate from the phone’s charging port. So when you charge your smartphone with one charger, you charge the case with another USB-C charger. It has a battery life of about 18 hours.

The case has a switch that you can move to block the camera. The case should not block Wi-Fi or GSM signals in a large area, but you can block yourself. When you walk into a coffee shop and there is free wifi, you could not go further with this place. The housing can also protect against electromagnetic pulse attacks.

“We don’t trust the people around you,” Shlomi Erez said. “You can’t be hacked if you’re not connected to the world.”

Two models:

The cases are available in two models. The Athena is designed for various smartphone models – currently for the iPhone 12 Pro, and also aimed at iPhone 13 Pro, future iPhone devices, Samsung Galaxy S22 and many other models in the future.

These cases are available in silver and gold versions. The Athena Silver, which is available immediately, will block a microphone and camera, and the Athena Gold, which is currently in development, will secure a phone’s Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth.

The Universal model is suitable for all smartphone models. The universal cases will be available in August 2022 and come in bronze, silver and gold models. The Universal Bronze only blocks a phone’s camera; the Universal Silver blocks both the camera and the microphone. The Universal Gold, on the other hand, blocks all transferable data points, including a microphone, camera, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth.

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The Cirotta team in Tel Aviv.

“Mobile phone technology is the most widely used form of communication, but also the least protected. While there are software solutions to thwart malware attacks, very little has been done to prevent cybercriminals from using hardware and communication weaknesses in phones to breach a user’s data,” said Shlomi Erez. “That is so far. Our cases are a non-invasive way for an organization to protect a user’s phone and data. Our cases give users the ability to enable and disable their security functionality while remaining 100% operational when in use.”

A single charge of the case provides more than 24 hours of use, and as it is a 100% external accessory, no connection is required between the case and a mobile phone, preventing the case from being hacked. It is available for single use telephone purposes and for organizations that want to lock multiple devices with a unique/single key.

According to Cirotta, his cases are already being used with great success at several high-profile organizations worldwide. Looking ahead, the company is actively securing a financing round to support its manufacturing, marketing and distribution efforts and a move into the US market.

“Based on the growing interest in the Cirotta cases, we are actively seeking a strategic manufacturing and distribution partners in Europe, Asia and Africa,” said Shlomi Erez. “Our primary focus is to deliver the solutions to business-to-business customers, with a long-term plan to support a business-to-consumer rollout. Our target market currently extends to government and defense organizations, private sector research and development facilities, sensitive materials companies and business leaders.

The company has raised nearly $2 million and has 16 employees. While the products are now aimed at VIPs, almost anyone could use this type of protection, Eran Erez said.

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