Well, you heard it right! It is Edward Snowden who wants to help you keep a check on your mobiles which might be spying on you. The NSA whistleblower along with his co-author and fellow hacker Andrew Huang presented their research on phone “hardware introspection” at the MIT Lab which aims to give users the ability to see whether their phone is sending out secret signals to an intelligence agency.
“This work aims to give journalists the tools to know when their smart phones are tracking or disclosing their location when the devices are supposed to be in airplane mode,” the pair wrote in their technical paper.
In their paper, Snowden and Huang make it clear that what you see on your phone’s screen is not always true.
If you turn off Bluetooth or cellular service, the phone’s radios and other electronics can still be made to send signals, especially if they are compromised by a sophisticated intelligence agency or hackers. Even airplane mode isn’t a defense, since the current version of Apple’s iOS still keeps the GPS active while in that state.
“Trusting a phone that has been hacked to go into airplane mode is like trusting a drunk person to judge if they are sober enough to drive,” they write.
The pair, hence, suggest a device (a phone case) that plugs into the hardware and constantly scans to see whether is transmitting.
Both Snowden and Huang plan to create a prototype of the device this year.
“As the project is run largely through volunteer efforts on a shoestring budget, it will proceed at a pace reflecting the practical limitations of donated time,” they wrote. “If the prototype proves successful, The Freedom of the Press Foundation may move to seek the necessary funding to develop and maintain a supply chain. This would enable the FPF to deploy modified iPhone 6 devices for field service among journalists in high-risk situations.”