Government whistleblower Edward Snowden has helped to build an iPhone 6 case to save the iPhone users from the surveillance activities conducted by NSA or any other security agencies. Co-designed with Andrew ‘Bunnie’ Huang, the hardware hacking expert and founder of Bunnie Studios, this device detects if a handset is transmitting data when it’s in Airplane Mode.
Andrew ‘Bunnie’ Huang announced this project the day before yesterday and a paper published describing the concept, mentioning that the case is designed to protect journalists, activists, and right workers from being tracked by governments.
Such case was necessary as switching to Airplane Mode is no defense against radio transmission, as Snowden and Huang have explained.
“For example, on iPhones since iOS 8.2, GPS is active in airplane mode. Furthermore, airplane mode is a “soft switch” – the graphics on the screen have no essential correlation with the hardware state. Malware packages, peddled by hackers at a price accessible by private individuals, can activate radios without any indication from the user interface; trusting a phone that has been hacked to go into Airplane Mode is like trusting a drunk person to judge if they are sober enough to drive,” the paper explains.
In order to avoid any infected malware from the phone, the device includes its own CPU, which is separated from the phone’s processor. It comes with probe wires to access the phone’s antennae through the SIM slot to monitor signal transmission. Also, there’s a small screen attached outside of the case that keeps the user up to date with anything that the phone is transmitting.
Snowden and Huang are also considering including a ‘kill switch’, which will automatically shut down the device if it detects any suspicious transmissions are being made.
The paper cites the tragic death of American journalists Marie Colvin, who is renowned to be tracked and killed by the Syrian forces in 2012. According to a lawsuit filed against the Syrian government, the reporter was a deliberate target and her location was discovered in part through the use of intercept devices, which tracked cellphone communications and satellite-dish.