Date: Friday, July 22nd, 2016, 12:36
Category: Hack, Hardware, iPhone, News, security
Edward Snowden may be in exile from the U.S., but that doesn’t seem to be slowing him down.
Snowden, who once met with reporters in a Hong Kong hotel room to spill the NSA’s secrets and famously asked them put their phones in the fridge to block any radio signals that might be used to silently activate the devices’ microphones or cameras, has released plans to announce a prototype for a device that could stop this kind of surveillance.
On Thursday at the MIT Media Lab, Snowden and well-known hardware hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang plan to present designs for a case-like device that wires into your iPhone’s guts to monitor the electrical signals sent to its internal antennas and they say it could offer a constant check on whether your phone’s radios are transmitting. They say it’s an infinitely more trustworthy method of knowing your phone’s radios are off than “airplane mode,” which people have shown can be hacked and spoofed.
In short, this could stop the transmission and thus better protect the user’s privacy.
Huang and Snowden’s device has been called an “introspection” engine, albeit it appears to be little more than an external battery case with a small mono-color screen. Still, this could function as a small, form-fitting oscilloscope, wherein tiny probe wires from that external device would snake into the iPhone’s innards through its SIM-card slot to attach to test points on the phone’s circuit board. (The SIM card itself would be moved to the case to offer that entry point.) Those wires would read the electrical signals to the two antennas in the phone that are used by its radios, including GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular modem.
Upon identifying the outgoing radio signals, the modified phone would warn you with alert messages or an audible alarm if its radios transmit anything when they’re meant to be off. Huang says it could possibly even flip a “kill switch” to turn off the phone automatically.
It’s an interesting idea and there’s a full article over on Wired detailing the aspects of it, its creation and a gallery of the development process to date.
Even in exile, it’s hard to keep a good hacker down.