Gary Cohn is partnering with a biometrics company to build a secure smartphone

Gary Cohn is partnering with a biometrics company to build a secure smartphone

President Donald Trump’s former director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn says his experience in the White House has fueled his interest in cybersecurity and blockchain.

At the Credit Suisse Blockchain and Digital Assets Symposium in New York, Cohn told CNBC his time as chief economic advisor, which involved meetings with foreign delegations and governments, opened his eyes to the security issues the public sector is dealing with.

“You move to the White House and you have a whole different level of security concerns. We went to foreign countries with phones … the way we had to change phones out and what the security administrations did with the phones and how they couldn’t make them any more secure than the private sector could. So, I said to myself, there has to be a better solution,” said Cohn to CNBC in an exclusive interview.

Soon after, Cohn met Hoyos Integrity CEO Hector Hoyos, who in the past has built technology and services used by the U.S. military.

“When I was in the private sector, we always worried about secure data, secure communications, and securing our client’s data. When I went to the public sector it’s the same issue. What I found out is the public sector didn’t have a better solution than the private sector. When I left the White House, one of the challenges that I set out to see …is finding a solution for secure data and secure communication” added Cohn.

Cohn became an adviser and investor in Hoyos’ company and says the company has been working over the past two years on building a secure smartphone that incorporates biometrics.

Hoyos hopes to get the new phone in the hands of government agencies like the CIA, the FBI, among others, by 2021. Cohn resigned from his position in the White House in April 2018. Before joining President Trump, Cohn was president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs.

Nuclear bomber software

While many companies including Apple and Alphabet’s Google are trying to improve security standards, the risk of getting hacked is an ongoing issue.

Hoyos alleges that the problem lies with the operating systems used by tech companies.

“Many companies attempted to do that in the last few years and the problem was that the operating systems they were using weren’t secure,” he said. “Android is not secure. iOS operating system is not secure. We took the operating system from a company in California called Greenhill Software that for 20 years has been the operating system running the nuclear bomber wing of the US. We took the system and put it inside a brand new phone … that means no one can intercept that call.”

Mobile phones which contain private sensitive information, have become a magnet for hackers. Even secure messaging apps that incorporate end-to-end encryption like WhatsApp and Signal are not seen as “unhackable.”

WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, sued data surveillance firm NSO in late October, accusing the Israeli firm of helping its government spy on users across four different continents spanning from journalists to diplomats. WhatsApp alleged that malware and spyware found their way into users’ phones, accessing private messages and photos.

Analysts see the WhatsApp hack is an example of how even technologies that incorporate high standards of security are in some cases, vulnerable.

In addition to the phone, Hoyos unveiled a secure digital wallet that allows users to store cryptocurrencies and other digital assets. In the event of a breach, Hoyos Wallet is insured up to $1 million.

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