DARPA fortifies soldiers' smartphones against malware

The U.S. government awards a $21 million grant to a company tasked with shielding soldiers' Android-based smartphones and tablets from data leaks.

For most ordinary citizens, leaked information from a smartphone or tablet is a hassle but not a life-or-death situation. But for soldiers it can be another story.

The U.S. government is working to reinforce soldiers' devices against data breaches. According to The New York Times, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has given a $21 million grant to the company Invincea to protect soldiers' Android-based phones and tablets from cyber threats.

"By separating untrusted apps and content we are preventing the compromise of the operating system," founder of Invincea Anup Ghosh told The New York Times.

Typically, Ghosh told the Times, soldiers' devices will be loaded with both military apps and information along with personal apps and games. What can happen is while the soldier is on a game or social networking app their information can be compromised by some type of malware that infiltrates the operating system and gets GPS, contacts, and other personal information.

According to The New York Times, 3,000 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan are already using Invincea software meant to shield data from loss and theft. The software codes the operating system and if the smartphone or tablet is lost or stolen the device's memory is filled with "random, useless data."

A new project Invincea is working on with DARPA is creating a virtual environment that apps can run on and ensures that confidential information doesn't get out.

"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 New York Times writes. "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."

In February, U.S. civilian and military officials began testing the use of secure Android smartphones that could be capable of transmitting confidential documents. This new program shows the data that each application on the phone utilizes and also lets the user control the specific data that can be sent over the network.

 

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