US military locks down on soldiers' smartphones
While it is a given that the military wants its soldiers' computers and electronic devices to be tough outside, it now wants the devices to be fortified as well on the inside, The New York Times (NYT) has reported.
The military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has assigned Invincea to fortify Android-based phones and tablets so they —and their data— are safe in soldiers’ hands.
"Invincea’s first project for Darpa was to protect soldiers’ smartphones from loss and theft. It developed software that encrypts files in the operating system and fills up the memory of a lost device with random, useless data; on a standard phone, wiping your data can still leave behind enormous amounts of information," the NYT said.
Presently, that software is already being used by more than 3,000 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, NYT said.
The NYT added the $21-million grant to the company shows how pervasive networked technologies have become in the military – and the market that has opened up to secure them.
Invincea's next project is to make sure that malware does not get in through an application, and that sensitive data does not get out.
The company is working on creating a virtual environment in which applications can run - tricking apps like Facebook or Words With Friends into thinking they are running in the phone’s operating system, when they are actually "sandboxed" in a virtual environment.
Under this scenario, apps cannot gain access to data such as the phone’s location, or its contacts.
Apps will also be barred from gaining root privileges that can let them take over the device.
“By separating untrusted apps and content we are preventing the compromise of the operating system,” said Anup Ghosh, a professor at George Mason University and the founder of Invincea.
Ghosh said part of the problem is that soldiers often want to use their mobile devices to communicate with families back home, and to entertain themselves when possible.
Thus, military apps sit alongside games and social networking apps.
"The risks can be unexpected. Soldiers playing games on an Army base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, can easily and unknowingly transmit the names of their friends. A piece of malware can penetrate the operating system and suck out location information," the NYT said. — TJD, GMA News