The power of the big tech giants is based on our data: they know (almost) everything about us and control the world with this knowledge. This power is to be broken. Nothing less than that promises Michael Yudelson. He runs a company with high-ranking intelligence experts from Israel and the US, which has developed both software and a telephone to make us the masters of our data again. Surfing the Internet, shopping, transferring, communicating without your data harvested: it would be a revolution. We talked to Michael Yudelson about this revolution.
Freie Welt: What you promise would be a revolution. If the people of this world were to become masters of their data again, the power of the big tech giants would collapse. This is probably what the majority of people on this globe dream of. Who are you and how do you think you can implement such a project?
Michael Yudelson: I am a former pilot and have been involved in the cybersecurity industry for over a decade. My partner Eran Karpen, who is an Israeli Military Intelligence veteran from Unit 8200, which is one of the world's best signal intelligence outfits, that makes Eran basically a government grade hacker, has been designing secure phones, cybersecurity tools, and operating systems for many years, and is one of the world’s foremost experts on IT and communications security. Our team is unrivaled in its experience and commitment to personal privacy. We believe in this, it’s not just a company.
Freie Welt: So, how did you get together, and why?
Michael Yudelson: Well, because we saw the injustice of what’s happening with Big Tech, and we knew how to fix it. So, we put our minds, our experience, and the resources of our investors to the problem. The progress has been remarkable, and we can confidently say that we’ve created an unprecedented platform for secure communication. When we look at this whole situation from a Star Wars perspective, then Big Tech, black hat hackers and governments using Pegasus against Journalists and dissidents are the dark side of the force, which makes us the Jedis. When the right people come together with the common goal to right a wrong, impossible becomes a word that can only be found in a dictionary for fools!
Freie Welt: What is Unplugged?
Michael Yudelson: We develop a communications ecosystem that enables secure communication by combining a suite of communications applications – messenger, VPN, antivirus, browser and other apps – together with a secure, high-end smartphone that collects no user data and prevents the exploitation of your personal information.
As people increasingly understand, your phone and online presence has made you a product. Your information is not just insecure, but regularly exploited for profit by third parties - Google, Apple, Facebook and the like. And what you do online is transparent for those who have the sophistication to mine your data to know what apps you use, when and how you use them, where your information is stored, and who you’re interacting with.
We are against the unjust exploitation of your most intimate information – without your permission, and for someone else’s profit. Unplugged was founded to ensure the security, integrity, and privacy of online communication.
Freie Welt: Please explain in your opinion, how we have no privacy.
Michael Yudelson: Today we have no online privacy in the classic sense – nearly everything we do online is monitored, catalogued, and ultimately monetized, even by applications that we would otherwise view as free, or social, or unrelated to our financial activity. Similarly, these apps, and even the operating systems on which they reside, are quite vulnerable to interception, hacking, and worse.
Freie Welt: How does Unplugged do that?
Michael Yudelson: At Unplugged we have built a system that ensures privacy, security and integrity in everyday communication. We provide government-grade encryption that was until recently only the domain of governments, large corporations, and wealthy globalists. We believe that such capabilities should be available to all people.
We also protect our users’ private data, from exploitation, hacking and monetization by Big Tech. There are millions of consumers who are rightly furious that their personal data is being collected, distributed, and monetized. This violates our most fundamental right to privacy.
But you simply cannot escape the Big Tech ecosystem by using traditional tools. Apps monitor and extract your data. Your operating system is compromised. And your phone is built to share your information with third parties. Until now. Unplugged is changing this.
We’ve assembled a world-class team of cybersecurity professionals and smartphone developers with many years of experience building security applications and hardware, but especially our CTO and my Co-Founder Eran Karpen, who is the original creator of Pegasus, but when his invention has been used for malicious purposes, he has dedicated himself to the opposite direction, to protect. Eran has been developing secure mobile phone systems for the Israeli Military – Special Ops, Israeli Foreign Office, Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and for other sensitive government agencies, for the past 10 years. Now, he is doing this for you! Together, we are changing the DNA of online interactions, restoring privacy and integrity to our users.
Freie Welt: Can you explain this in some more technical detail for our more technical savvy readers?
Michael Yudelson: We accomplish this in 3 ways. First, we are making a secure smartphone – The NeoPhone, in order to protect your privacy at the hardware level.
Second, we are a developing a proprietary operating system – Libertas OS. It doesn’t collect user data. It doesn’t monitor your online interactions. And it doesn’t monetize your data.
Third, we have developed a proprietary App Suite of Unplugged apps for messaging, VPN, browsing and other applications. You can also access third party apps through our App Store, but without most of the snooping you’re used to experiencing. So WhatsApp, Twitter and many other common apps can be used without the privacy concerns and data exposure you’ve come to expect from most of the apps you use.
And as we expand, we’ll be inviting third party developers to create additional applications on our protocol. With Unplugged, you have control over your data and who can access it.
Freie Welt: What you did on the software side is truly nice, but why isn’t it enough to stop there, why going through the troubles of creating a whole new phone?
Michael Yudelson: Good question. The NeoPhone addresses a fundamental vulnerability that’s unfortunately been highlighted all across the news in recent months, where state actors allegedly using government grade offensive tools such as Pegasus, hacked into people’s phones, with grave consequences as a result – your phone is vulnerable to hacking and data theft. For truly secure communications, a secure phone where we ensure the integrity of the end points - such as your microphone, cameras, screen and drivers - is critical. So, journalists, political figures, and everyday consumers can be comfortable their privacy is ensured, and no private hacker or even state actor can gain entry into our system.
Freie Welt: Most people will have a hard time changing their phone. Do you think you can offer a mobile phone that comes close to the big players in the industry in terms of usability? Are you reaching the user standard of iPhone or leading Android phones? How much will your phone cost? And: can your software still work on conventional mobile phones?
Michael Yudelson: The NeoPhone is technically, from a hardware perspective somewhere between Samsung Galaxy S21, or iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 13 Pro Max, so it is indeed a real high-end device. Although we have created our own operating system with Libertas OS, which feels and looks very futuristic, it is very intuitive, we have put great importance to the fact that every user who picks it up can get started immediately without any problems. The decision is more in your head, do I buy a Mercedes or a BMW? No, I'm going to drive Tesla!
The NeoPhone will give you extra security against any hardware-level intrusion techniques, but it's not mandatory. It does not work with iPhone, but if you have an Android device, you can download our App Suite on it by simply visiting our Download Page: www.unpluggedsystems.app
At the moment it is still free, but in 3 months or so, the App Suite will cost about 120 euros per year. The NeoPhone, when it comes out in late summer 2022, will cost about 750 euros, the first year of the App Suite will already be included. As you can see, we are very careful that you can afford it, even if not the NeoPhone, at least the App Suite, which costs less per month than Netflix or a good VPN service, whereby VPN is already part of our App Suite. Considering that Big Tech makes an average of $180 a year from you by selling your data, it's more of a small but very important investment you would make with us for your security.
Freie Welt: Apple will hardly allow your app, which prevents Apple from collecting your data, on its App Store. So where can you get your app and when? And do you also have your own App Store?
Michael Yudelson: Our entire App Suite will certainly not be available on Apple, but perhaps some of our components will be available on Apple’s App Store in the future, such as our messenger and our VPN. However, our entire App Suite can already be downloaded for free onto any Android phone at the moment. Simply visit our download page: www.unpluggedsystems.app
And yes, as part of our App Suite we offer a proprietary App Store with our own apps and common third-party apps. So WhatsApp, Signal, Twitter, and even apps that are blocked from Google, Apple for various reasons will be available on our platform such as Parler and Gettr and Trumps Truth App in the future. We’ll also be open to third party apps specially developed for Libertas. Think of this as a sort of Linux for apps.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this App Store, which is a more secure way to engage with even common apps such as Twitter or Facebook. And of course, our native apps collect no user data or analytics. One of the questions I’m often asked is how this affects someone who is using Binance, for example. Well, on our App Store, no one will be able to know you even have Binance on your device, which offers a huge security advantage, since hackers won’t be able to determine what wallets and exchanges you’re using, or even if you have any.
Freie Welt: So I can download WhatsApp from your app store and then use WhatsApp without WhatsApp getting my data?
Michael Yudelson: Unfortunately, it's not quite like that: If you download apps like Facebook or WhatsApp via our App Store, we will prevent GPS localization by default. Of course, there are also apps that will not work without it, and it is then up to you whether you will allow this access, and we will also analyze for you any third-party app available on our App Store for you, for its cybersecurity, so we will let you know for example, that WhatsApp is automatically intercepting and recording your messages, calls, positions, etc. which then by use of an AI, are being analyzed, exploited, marketed and, if necessary, passed on to third parties. The decision whether you still want to have this app on your phone is yours, but at least, we provide you with the information, so that you can make an informed and consciences decision. You can then determine your own balance between security and user-friendliness, but then at least, you do it informed.
Freie Welt: So what happens to the data? Do you store it on servers?
Michael Yudelson: No, we don’t collect it or store it. You are completely anonymous. Even in your registration process, you will notice that fields like your name, your email address, and your phone number are optional. If you choose to provide them, they will only be used in case you lost your password, in order to restore your password. It is your choice to leave it blank, the only thing we require is a username of your choosing and a password. We don’t need to know who you are or where you are. Nothing is ever stored on servers.
Unplugged operates peer-to-peer, with no user information tracked or retained on servers. We use curved encryption whereby a new key is generated with every message or call. Our servers operate to solely to initiate and verify this key, with all information transferred peer-to-peer. Our server farms are independent, secure, and redundant so that the platform can never be taken offline.
Freie Welt: Do you have a Social Media component like Telegram Channels, as part of your messenger?
Michael Yudelson: As a matter of fact, yes, we call it Rooms, it’s very similar to Telegram Channels in its functionality, only with Rooms you have true anonymity and privacy. No-one will ever know who you are, if you don’t want this.
Freie Welt: How is Unplugged Rooms different from Telegram Channels?
Michael Yudelson: It is very similar; however, the big difference is privacy and anonymity. As you know, when you sign up with Telegram, you need to provide your phone number to receive an authentication code. This makes you uniquely identifiable. With Unplugged, as previously described, this is not the case, as we value your privacy and anonymity. Therefore, all the information we need is a nickname of your choosing. This is the only thing by what someone will ever know you, within our system. There is nothing which can lead back to you, or by which you can be identified. Not even we know who you are, if you choose not to provide this information. You have the freedom to post anonymously whatever you like, and nobody will ever be able to track back to you to punish you. In our times, this is a great tool which can be used to call to assemble or just organize many people, to join you for a walk, and exercise our democratic freedoms of free speech and free assembly, subject to no one, no government, no corporation or any other organizations will ever be able to silence or stop you, you have your constitutional rights! We help that it stays this way!
Freie Welt: Are there any more cool features that will be available in your Messenger?
Michael Yudelson: Well, there are many more to come, we have our little list, we are working on, but it’s still a secret. I can however tell you about two new cool features, we are currently working on: The first, All messengers have a voice message option, we have that too, but we will also have a video message option! The second, and this is going to be really cool, we are developing a bridge mode, for semi secure communications, which will allow you to contact someone to WhatsApp or Telegram, or Signal, etc, from the Unplugged Messenger, and the other way around. We call this semi secure, as you are secure from interception only within the Unplugged ecosystem, once you cross over, it will enhance your convenience to communicate with non-Unplugged people but will diminish your security. We provide you with the option, it’s always your choice to make.
Freie Welt: Where is all of that being developed?
Michael Yudelson: Well, in the techiest country in the world, of course: in Israel. As it is the one place where we have access to the kind of talent it takes to build something like this. All software components are fully developed in Israel, and the NeoPhone is designed in Israel and manufactured not in China, but in Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam. We are very careful to not have a single process of our phone manufacturing depend on any Chinese supply chain. There is no Chinese fingerprint on our phone whatsoever. As an additional layer of security, we do the chip flushing ourselves, this is the one-time imprint of our source code onto the chipset of the phone. We do this ourselves, to prevent any possibility of any tampering with our code.
Freie Welt: Interesting, so we can assume that Israel has a backdoor into your system?
Michael Yudelson: Of course, I expected you would ask that. Short answer is no, nobody has, not even us. We cannot give something that we don’t have.
To ensure this, we designed the encryption so that a new private encryption ‘key’ is generated with every communication, so it’s impossible for us or anyone else for that matter to decrypt the system or gain entry into the system. Even if we were forced to do so by court order, it’s not possible.
Freie Welt: Can you prove this?
Michael Yudelson: Actually yes! Aside from us being constantly audited for our security and integrity by one of the leading cyber security companies in the world, CYE, to prove this to anyone who wants, anyone is invited to visit us and we will provide a source code review in a white room, so anyone who is interested and understands code can see for themselves that there are no backdoors.
Freie Welt: What is your position if your system were also used by criminals, and can you stop it and help the authorities find them?
Michael Yudelson: Unfortunately, the Internet is increasingly a forum for the commission of cybercrime, from phishing attacks to fraud, as well the theft of crypto currencies and personal data. We hope and expect that Unplugged will help prevent such crimes. We all know that bad actors use cell phones, messengers and emails for impure purposes, and if a user profile can be proven to be the source of criminality we’d obviously like to block that profile, and assist law enforcement in doing their job. But practically speaking our system - being totally anonymous and secure - cannot proactively filter out users, since we possess no user data and have no way of intercepting or otherwise reading your communications.
Freie Welt: In your words, what is Unplugged really about, and how can we, consumers, get access to it?
Michael Yudelson: Unplugged is about giving people the tools to take back their privacy and security. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the peace of mind to not have to put your phone aside when you have an important conversation, or to not get pop up ads based on your telephone conversations or online browsing? Or to know that your financial data is secure, and that hackers and malicious actors don’t even know where you bank, trade, and store your crypto funds? For people with strong conservative or unconventional political views, this is critical, and it’s also important to people who are tired of their life becoming a product, sold to the highest bidder.
We plan to release our NeoPhone late summer, and have already made available for download our App Suite, which anyone can download onto any Android device, and start using and testing it for free.
We’ll be charging a small fee for our App Suite in the coming months, but for now it’s free and can be downloaded at https://www.unpluggedsystems.app/
The interview with Michael Yudelson was conducted for Freie Welt by the editor Sven von Storch.