Ed Snowden and Andrew "bunnie" Huang announce a malware-detecting smartphone case


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/07/21/ed-snowden-and-andrew-bunnie.html


#2

Sounds cool. I think everyone should get one of these as soon as possible.


#3

Boy that Snowden sure knows how to make friends.

[note sarcasm]


#4

I guess Bunnie knows this, along with the DMCA lawsuit with EFF, will get him some extra-special attention every time he crosses a border. Or flies. Or files his taxes. Or…


#5

Couldn’t you pretty effectively block any RF your phone is putting out by wrapping it in a few layers of foil or putting it in an aluminized mylar bag?

How much shielding does it take?


#6

Pretty sure he already does.

Faraday cage phone cases already exist. And yeah, fairly straight-forward to build your own. But if malware is spying on you when the radio, camera and/or mic are supposedly off, it can do it when they’re turned on as well, and at some point when you have to make or take a call/email/text, you’ll have to take it out of the cage.

The purpose of this is to find out if it’s happening. The cool thing about it is it’s elegant simplicity. Going by the article, it sounds likes it’s basically just a tiny passive radio wave detector, presumably with a small chip for analysis. Since it’s not doing anything to the phone, the software can’t detect and circumvent it.


#7

the use case for this device is rather specific and targets only real-time tracking/spying when the phone should be in a mode with switched off radio - is this an actual and useful threat model?


#8

I’m looking at it like an IDS sensor. Seems like it would be useful for some.


#9

I suspect that it depends on who you are: if, like the war correspondent mentioned(or a totally unknown number of stingray-stung people; because virtually nothing about the use of those is known, except that it’s very broad and very hush-hush), your physical location is of interest to the adversary; and robust assurance that radios that say they are off are indeed off would be useful.

If you are more of a pesky opinionated intellectual or rabble-rousing organizer type, who is an undesirable because of what you transmit, and whose contact lists would be of considerable interest to The Interior Ministry, it’s much less helpful: if you have to go radio-silent 100% of the time, you might as well just skip carrying the phone; and if you do periodically connect any suitably punchy malware can stay resident, log things that seem useful, and report back to the mothership during the times that you have deliberately connected to the network.

Having a way of verifying that ‘off’ is actually ‘off’ beats not knowing; but the big ugly problem is that a cellphone you plan to use is an RF beacon with one or more globally unique IDs burned into it and simply won’t work if that is no longer the case. You can deny the adversary fresh information; but only by denying yourself connectivity.


#10

He doesn’t live in the US. He lives in Singapore.


#11

That’s cool. Being 'Merkin and knowing he lived here before I assumed he’d never want to leave! :wink:


#12

I believe (if I recall correctly) that he found that Singapore was the best place because of the hardware business he was in before and its close proximity to manufacturers in China. I’m also under the impression that he speaks Chinese (but I don’t know if it is Cantonese or Mandarin).

See also the video series he did this last month on Shenzhen.

https://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=4721


#13

I’ll have to check it out. I stopped checking up on him at least a few years ago when his blog went into a long cycle of “Name that Ware” and nothing else. I know for certain that it was before the Novena.


#14

I have a Novena, but, really, I’ve done nothing with it.


#15

Good news, especially when there is no trustworthy baseband processor on the market :frowning:


#16

Having a $4 canary before the $400 canary and life insurance sounds plenty useful.
Halliburton doesn’t send me glossy apps for marine arrival gear, so IDK what canaries look for.

SnoopSnitch and IMSI Catcher would be only $200ish (the spare rooted phone) but then the batteries and co-toggling phones would be a drag.


#17

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