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Hacked smartphones pose military threat

Tim Greene | Aug. 17, 2010
Hacked smartphones could endanger troops by sending location data to the enemy using mechanisms similar to those employed by recently discovered Android malware, experts say.

Adrian Perrig, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, is working on a similar product that works slightly differently, but the goal is the same. He is exploring use of software that creates a trusted isolated environment into which authorized phone software can be launched and patched to protect it from malware. This safe zone is called a Dynamic Root of Trust, he says.

Perrig is also looking at hardware-based checks of whether a phone's authorized configuration has been tampered with. This could be done with a separate trusted device, but chips with hardware security built in are available from ARM that would allow this check to be done by the phone itself.

"All phones offer a lot of opportunity for observing what the operator is doing -- e-mail, GPS, finding restaurants," Perrig says. Malware can turn phone microphones on or snap photos surreptitiously, he says.

As personal devices are used more and more outside personal settings, this issue will become more important, and not just in war zones, Thompson says. "It's a business and military issue," he says.

 

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