Three years after exposing the NSA’s intensive espionage programme, Snowden has sought the help of hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang to develop a design for an iPhone case that can monitor electrical signals sent to the smartphone’s internal antennas, in a bid to detect any rogue signal being transmitted from your phone.
The design unveiled at the MIT Media Lab, shows a case-like device that comes with a monochrome screen and named the ‘introspection engine.’ The device has a tiny probe attached to the iPhone’s radio antennas, accessible through the SIM card slot. The iPhone has two antennas that transmit electronic signals and are used by the GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and the likes.
The probe studies the signals being transmitted by the antennas with the aim of flagging the user the moment there’s a transmission of information when they’re meant to be off. You will instantly be alerted through messages and even an audible alarm, leading the phone to be shut down automatically.
The aim is to allow reporters enter hostile countries without the fear of having their every movement tracked by a ‘Big Brother.’
“One good journalist in the right place at the right time can change history,” Snowden told the MIT Media Lab crowd via video stream. “This makes them a target, and increasingly tools of their trade are being used against them.”
The iPhone modification is little more than a design at this moment. The anti-surveillance duo had tested the method of studying electrical signals sent to the phone’s antennae to see if they can spot the different radio messages being sent. But there is yet to be a prototype, leave alone a real product, which is in production.
But through a video stream, Snowden and Huang released a detailed paper going into the depths of the technique. They hope to develop a prototype by next year and eventually start a supply chain of modified iPhones in China, to offer them to journalists worldwide.
To ward any distrust towards Chinese manufacturers, Huang has said the code and the hardware design will be made open-source.
Fittingly, the collaborators and co-conspirators have never met face-to-face. After recommending Vice who were looking for a hardware hacking expert for their television show on HBO, Snowden began talking to Huang via the encrypted communications app Signal, about his plans of building a modified phone to protect journos from the watchful eyes of government sponsored adversaries.
In the paper, Snowden mentions the fate of American journalist Marie Colvin, who was reporting about civilian deaths in Syria. She was the victim of a targeted bombing by the country’s merciless Assad regime after being tracked by her electronic communications.
You can read the full paper here.
Image Source: Wired.com
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