Vysk QS1 encrypts phone data and blacks out cameras, costs $229

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/ Updated: 25 April 2014, 4:28 am AEST

While you can always download as many software security apps as you can to protect your personal data, the QS1 smartphone case goes one further to keep your information safe. Manufactured by Vysk, a security startup based in Texas, the case bolsters user privacy with a hardware solution built directly into its design.

Available for the iPhone 5 and 5S, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5, the QS1 can be pre-ordered starting on May 15 for $229 at Vysk, and will ship out early this fourth quarter.

The case enables users to encrypt their texts and photos, and make private VoIP calls through its built-in microphone and proprietary encryption processor. The processor is powered by an individual 2,200mAh battery that can be used to charge the handset too. To access the security feature, users will be required to download the Vysk QS app off the Google Play Store or the iTunes store. They will also need to subscribe to the company's encrypted privacy calling network.

This network subscription costs $9.95 a month, but the company promises that no one will be able to listen into your calls, or gather any call information -- including the identity of the caller and receiver, the numbers involved, or the time of the call. If a third-party were to somehow hack into the network, all it would hear from a Vysk-encrypted outgoing call is an irritating buzzing sound.

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The Vysk QS app (left) and its keypad which is used to dial private calls. Lynn La/CNET

The QS1 has another privacy feature called "lockdown mode," which physically blocks your front and rear-facing camera lenses with two sliding covers. This prevents anyone from actually seeing anything through your cameras if they were to be remotely accessed. Lockdown also jams all the handset's microphones, and does not require a monthly subscription to use.

Although I only spent a brief amount of time with the prototype model, I noticed the case was hefty, and added about three-quarters of an inch to the top and bottom of the iPhone. However, a Vysk representative said the final product will be slimmer, and shouldn't be any bulkier than common smartphone cases equipped with backup batteries, like the ones sold from Mophie or Tylt. The company also plans to release additional colors other than black.

At over $200, the QS1 costs a pretty penny. It's not stylish, and you need to keep in mind that it requires charging. That said, the case does go further to protect mobile privacy than any product I've seen so far. And, if ultimate user security is your main concern, this may worth considering. True, nothing is ever going to be 100 percent impenetrable to outside threats, but for $229, some may find this a reasonable price to pay for more peace of mind.

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Vysk QS1

Part Number: CNETVyskQS1
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