I've been following a story for some time now about a high-ranking Canadian official who was charged in leaking operational data to the makers of Phantom Secure. There was a very deep level of concern from the FBI about the use of Phantom Secure phones because their communication encryption was secure and was being used by criminal enterprises.

One of my questions is this; if a company like Meta (who owns WhatsApp), claims that all communication between users is encrypted end-to-end, why would law enforcement not be as concerned with this application, considering that Meta claims there are no back doors built in?

Can someone explain the difference between the technology used by Phantom Secure, and that which is used by WhatsApp?

  • Phantom Secure is a device and a whole communications infrastructure. Whatsapp is a messaging service.
    – schroeder
    Nov 2 at 9:26

2 Answers 2


why would law enforcement not be as concerned with this application

Law enforcement is similar concerned about other encrypted communication, like WhatsApp. That's why there are regularly proposals to regulate these and get some kind of backdoor into the encryption or the device for law enforcement (typically with the primary argument of combating child sexual abuse) - see for example chat control.

... difference between the technology used by Phantom Secure, and that which is used by WhatsApp?

The important difference is not in the encryption technology used. PhantomSecure is a closed platform and has a remote kill switch in order to destroy any evidence, matching the target audience of criminals. WhatsApp does not have such a kill switch and also runs on a more open generic consumer OS. The latter also makes it easier to develop and deploy backdoors, like Pegasus. By attacking the platform it is possible to get access to the data before end-to-end encryption or after decryption, which means that the encryption itself does not need to get broken.

  • you forgot to add that Phantom secure attracts the more hardy criminals due to its feature set.. and is there for that much more important for law enforcement to get access.
    – LvB
    Nov 1 at 13:32
  • 2
    @LvB: I've focused on the technical differences since this was the question. But you are right in that breaking a platform mainly used by criminals is a more attractive target. And it gets also better public opinion than compromising a platform with lots of innocent users. Nov 1 at 13:42
  • I get your response, it’s why I only added a comment. Professionally I don’t agree with the view that since it’s often used by criminals we can just compromise it. But I do get that is how the public views it. (I think you agree with that @Steffen Ullrich)
    – LvB
    Nov 1 at 14:53
  • 2
    @LvB: Compromising a device or platform is bad - and might cause collateral damage outside of compromising this specific platform. Letting criminals hide their communication and evidence is also bad. So there is no good or bad choice, there is only bad and worse. And what is considered the worse choice depends on the individual perspectives. And there are many different perspectives on this topic. While I have my opinion based on my perspective I don't claim that this is the only right one or even the best. Nov 1 at 15:22
  • Neither do I claim otherwise. But you exactly mirror my views on the subject. (As in almost 1:1). I suspect there are reasons for that which we share. (But got no way to verify). Anyway. This will be my last comment in this thread regarding this.
    – LvB
    Nov 1 at 18:30

Can someone explain the difference between the technology used by Phantom Secure, and that which is used by WhatsApp?

Both are (at least in theory) encrypted end-to-end, however attacking WhatsApp would be politically unpopular as tens of millions of voters are using it vs a small company who's products are primarily used by criminals. Law enforcement would love a law that banned all encrypted communications but that's currently not feasible politically so they pick off whatever targets they can find.

The answer is "politics", not "technology".

  • This is making logic errors and bad inferences in favour of making a dig at "the government". You are trying to compare a device that was designed for and marketed to criminals to a service designed for marketed to the public.
    – schroeder
    Nov 2 at 8:22
  • @schroeder “marketing” is a red herring. The real problem for law enforcement was the encryption. Nov 2 at 8:25
  • Citation needed...
    – schroeder
    Nov 2 at 8:26
  • I’ll add citations tomorrow. Though I’m worried it might get deleted before it happens. Nov 2 at 8:32
  • No need to be petty. This answers the question. It's wrong and faulty and tangential, but technically, it answers the question.
    – schroeder
    Nov 2 at 8:55

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