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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Silent Pocket Faraday line

Wireless transmissions are ubiquitous in today's society, and no wireless device is as common as a cellphone. They're also chock full of sensitive information that can be vulnerable to theft, and can plague you with annoying notifications.

There are countless ways to make your phone more secure and/or less annoying, but one you probably haven't thought of involves placing it into a carrying case that blocks its wireless communication entirely. That's exactly what the Faraday line from Silent Pocket promises.

Let's take a look.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Silent Pocket founder Aaron Zar says "By being able to instantly block cellular, Wi-Fi, GPS, and RFID, people are empowered by our products to completely go off the grid as needed." The Faraday line is named after scientist Michael Faraday, who, in 1836, invented an enclosure of conductive mesh that blocks electrical fields, widely known as the Faraday cage.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Silent Pocket has built this mesh into water-resistant leather goods designed to carry your tech, cutting it off from the wireless grid. That kind of security blanket doesn't come cheap. Here you see a Faraday Dry Bag ($100), the Medium Faraday Phone Sleeve ($110) and the Medium Faraday Carryall ($190). They also sell a briefcase and backpack.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

The silent pocket line blocks frequencies between 800MHz-5GHz, the signals from your carrier (CMDA/GSM/DCS/PHS/3G/4G/LTE), as well as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. It also blocks RFID and NFC. Stowing your phone in one of these cases should be as good as turning it off and removing the battery -- just a lot more convenient.

Zar says that Faraday products protect you most while moving through high traffic, public spaces like airports, malls, promenades and train stations where would-be hackers have access to many devices at once.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

So why would you want to block signals to and from your phone? Unwanted GPS tracking, data skimming and undetectable use of your device's microphone and camera for data collection are just a few of the vulnerabilities people may worry about.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

We tested these Faraday pockets a bit by calling a smartphone from a landline, then sticking the phone inside one of the cases. Active calls were immediately interrupted when we put a phone inside.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

To test the Bluetooth blocking, we played some music from a phone over a Bluetooth speaker. As soon as the phone was encased in a Silent Pocket product, the music would cut out. When removed, the music came back on.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Not only do these products cut off signals, but even if your mic was recording you, Silent Pocket claims its material "shields up to 100 decibels (dB)." On this front our test was a little less conclusive.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

I set my phone to record audio and talked continuously at a normal level while inserting my phone in the Silent Pocket enclosures, then removing them. On playback I noticed that, though quite muffled, none of them silenced my speaking voice entirely. This may or may not concern you, given that all other signals from the device are being blocked.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

This Medium Faraday Carryall is basically a small clutch-style case. Both the sleeves and the Carryall contain two internal sides, one side blocks all signal transmissions to your cell phone; and the non-Faraday pocket still shields against RFID / NFC, which is good for keeping your credit cards safe or for keeping your phone active but largely protected.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

This medium case probably won't fit devices larger than my Samsung Galaxy S7. It fits, but it takes a little effort to get it in and out. Smaller phones would be fine. The full line includes various cases built to suit an array of devices.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Inside you can stow credit cards, a passport, some cash, keys and of course, your phone. My only wish was that this had a cross-body strap, making it the perfect small purse for times when you want to carry the bare minimum.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

You open and close the "interlocking magnetic seal" of the Faraday cage within by pressing a rib of material between two other ribs, almost like closing a ziplock bag.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Aside from protection against data theft, you may also want a temporary reprieve from the various sounds and vibrations of your phone -- without having to modify your notification settings, turn off the device, and/or remove the battery.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

According to Zar, "A smartphone's consumer facing settings such as airplane mode, Wi-Fi, and cellular are often restrictions rather than decisive switches. For definitive security and privacy and the peace of mind that goes along with it, you need to use a Faraday cage product such as Silent Pocket."

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

The Faraday Dry Bag is totally waterproof and can stow a handful of phones and/or small tablets.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

The Dry Bag would come in handy stowing your and your family's devices safely during that spirit-renewing kayaking trip, combining moisture protection and distraction-removal for all involved.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

It might also be a great place to store a few backup devices if you're the type that worries about an EMP attack. Though of course if all the networks were taken out in such an event, I'm not sure how much good it would do you to have a working phone in the aftermath.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

The newest addition to Silent Pocket's Faraday line is this nifty Key Fob Guard. This will protect you from having your car stolen by hackers lurking in parking lots.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

Someone can remotely clone the key fob data that enables them to unlock or even start your car once they see who is holding a key fob for a vehicle they've targeted. According to Silent Pocket, they can even steal your key fob information while your keys are actually inside your own home.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

You'll need to remove the fob from the protector just for a moment while unlocking or locking your car. Presumably if you do this quickly and then re-cover your fob, your car and its contents will be much safer.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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