DARPA Spends Big to Protect Soldiers’ Smartphones

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a $21 million grant to Invincea to protect soldiers’ Android-based phones and tablets from malware.

For soldiers, the type of information that a smartphone could provide the enemy has the potential to be fatal. In a war zone, GPS coordinates, contact lists, the type of personal information that the typical smartphone user carries in his or her email account all amount to a serious security threat. The simplest course of action would be to ban the use of smartphones or to restrict the apps that soldiers can run – but that would have a devastating impact on morale.

So how do you set up a smartphone so that it can run military apps and regular apps side by side without compromising security? Invincea’s answer is to separate trusted apps from untrusted apps and to sandbox anything that could pose a risk:

Anup Ghosh, founder of Invincea, told The New York Times:

By separating untrusted apps and content we are preventing the compromise of the operating system.

He explained further:

In other words, it is trying to trick an ordinary application — Facebook or Words With Friends — into thinking that it is running in the phone’s operating system, when it is actually sequestered in a separate virtual environment. The application, in that way, can be prohibited from gaining access to certain information: the phone’s location, for instance, or the contacts that it contains.

But Invincea doesn’t stop there. While malware has the potential to provide remote access to a phone, physical access to a lost phone also poses a risk. In the event that a phone is lost or stolen, Invincea will fill the phone’s memory with “random, useless data.”

Related Links

DARPA Mobile Security Award— Tapping Into Invincea’s Innovative Focus on Cyber Security
U.S. Military Hunts for Safe Smartphones for Soldiers

Comments

  1. BY David Strom says:

    This is just one of numerous mobile device management tools: I am glad to see the military taking the right steps here. The problem with many MDMs is that you have to choose whether to protect the apps, the user, or the phone — it is hard to cover all the bases.

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