Edward Snowden is developing a phone case which could stop governments from tracking journalists, activists and human rights workers via their mobiles.
The “introspection engine” would be installed on to the back of an iPhone 6 and indicate to users if the handset is broadcasting identifiable signals even when it is supposed to be inaccessible.
Journalists regularly use smartphones to capture images, record video and take notes in dangerous locations. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so off the grid.
Snowden revealed back in 2014 that spies can trick targets into thinking their phone is off when it’s actually turned on.
According to a new lawsuit, the Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin was reportedly killed after her phone was hacked by government forces in Syria.
But Snowden’s device would ensure that journalists are shielded from state surveillance if they are carrying out sensitive work. Tiny wires from the “introspection engine” would monitor electrical signals to the phones’ two antennae used by its radios, including GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular modem.
If the phone starts broadcasting when it is supposed to be inactive, a message or alarm would alert users. It could also automatically switch the phone off by disconnecting its power supply.
The device, which has been designed by Snowden and reverse engineering expert Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, resembles a normal bolt-on battery case with a black and white screen. The pair hope to develop a prototype in the next year. But the project is being run by volunteers, so a mainstream roll out won’t be coming any time soon. It’s even possible that the design will never be realised.
Nevertheless, the project will help to raise awareness of the perils of a constantly connected world that requires citizens to increasingly cede their privacy to governments and corporations.
The Guardian reports that Snowden, speaking via video link, told a conference at the MIT Media Lab: “If you have a phone in your pocket that’s turned on, a long-lived record of your movements has been created.
“As a result of the way the cell network functions your device is constantly shouting into the air by means of radio signals a unique identity that validates you to the phone company. And this unique identity is not only saved by that phone company, but it can also be observed as it travels over the air by independent, even more dangerous third parties.”
Best smartphones to buy in 2016:
This is Apple’s best iPhone ever
, and if we’re honest it’s one of their most innovative devices yet. It has an incredible camera, is water-resistant and boasts a stunning bright new display. Of course it can’t escape the rumours surrounding next year’s device but if you’re looking to buy a smartphone right now, and Apple are on your radar, this is the phone for you.
This is Google’s iPhone. It’s that simple. As such there are achievements and compromises. If you’re after an incredibly well-built, powerful Android flagship, Google have given you a truly five-star smartphone. If you’re a photographer, the Pixel’s camera and cloud storage option make this a no brainer. It's not cheap though, with the XL costing over £800.
The OnePlus 3T is simply a continuation of the ethos that makes OnePlus phones so good. It’s exceptionally well-built, powerful and offers you everything you could want in an affordable and meaningful package. No smartphone will give you more value for money.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
With a new curved back and larger 5.5-inch display the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
is more about evolution than revolution. The S7 edge now sports a water-resistant body, embedded camera and a MicroSD card slot. The S7 edge is also Samsung's most powerful smartphone yet, so powerful in fact that Samsung have actually had to equip a tiny water-cooling system inside the phone. The good news though is that means you'll never have to worry about getting a warm hand.
Incredibly, Apple's familiar-looking iPhone SE
manages to boast the same performance as its top-of-the-range iPhone 6s making it the most powerful 4-inch smartphone available. If you're keen to return to the days of one-handed texting then Apple's bite-sized iPhone is the smartphone for you.
The LG G5
sets itself apart from rivals like the S7, Xperia XA and the iPhone 6s by being something utterly unique. The G5 is the first commercial 'modular' phone, allowing you to swap out the bottom for new accessories. So far there's an audio one made in partnership with Bang & Olufsen and a camera-focused attachment which gives you extra camera controls.
JACK TAYLOR via Getty Images
The Huawei P9 is a smartphone designed for capturing life. Thanks to a partnership with photography legends Leica this dual-lens camera can take pictures that'll put your dedicated camera to shame. Of course it helps that the P9 is also a pretty great Android smartphone as well.
The Nexus 5X
strikes the ultimate balance between power and affordability. Taking over the responsibility from the frankly excellent Nexus 5, Google's new smartphone boast an ultra-light body but still crams in a fingerprint sensor, the latest version of Android marshmallow and a Full-HD display.