With a “kill switch” to forcibly power off the phone if a suspicious signal is detected.
World-renowned whistleblower Edward Snowden, seen as either a hero or a traitor depending on whom you ask, has dedicated his life to fighting for privacy in our technology-driven world.
Now, Snowden and Andrew “bunnie” Huang, an American hacker with a doctorate in electrical engineering from MIT, have collaborated to create a phone case that has the capacity to protect a user’s privacy.
Outlining their plan in an online paper called “Against The Law: Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance,” the duo explain how the smartphone case can spark an alarm and display a notification when the phone’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular or other radio connections are sending and receiving data without the user’s knowledge.
Further, the case will have a “kill switch” that can forcibly power off the phone if a suspicious signal is detected that appears to be transmitting information without the user’s permission. The case also prevents the recording of videos by obscuring the rear camera. Tech experts recently warned the public about protecting themselves by putting tape over laptop cameras, as there have been cases of hackers recording private footage and then blackmailing people with it.
The case is primarily intended to protect journalists, especially those who report from war zones or other countries with strict censorship laws. Even when their phones are in airplane mode, their personal information and locations can be compromised.
For Snowden, the problem with smartphone privacy is on another level — he tells WIRED that he hasn’t carried a smartphone since he first started leaking NSA documents, due to the fear that cell phone signals could disclose his location.
“Since 2013, I haven’t been able to have a smartphone like normal people,” he says. “Wireless devices are kind of like kryptonite to me.”
Although the paper was based on an iPhone 6, the design will reportedly be able to work for any type of smartphone, and Snowden and Huang plan to make the case “open source” so anyone can create it.
In the published paper, Snowden and Huang conclude that they will look to the Freedom of the Press Foundation to potentially fund production of the cases if their prototypes prove to be a success.
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