Device was specifically designed for journalists. Infamous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and hardware hacker Andrew ‘bunnie’ Huang have presented today at MIT’s Media Lab a new concept for an iPhone hardware case that will prevent surveillance via radio signals.
The device is nothing more than a case extension that gets plugged into the iPhone’s SIM card slot and connect’s to the phone’s internal wiring.
The device, which is only a design right now and is referred to as an “introspection engine,” has a slot where the user can place his SIM card and continue to use the phone’s mobile calling features, if ever needed.
Snowden and Huang designed the device for journalists
The role of the introspection engine, as Snowden and Huang explain in a researcher paper also embedded at the end of this article, is to provide an accurate status of the phone’s radio signals.
The two designed the device specifically for frontline journalists that want to avoid having their smartphones tapped and used to track them.
In the past, it was proven that nation-states used surveillance malware to infect a target’s phone and turn on the phone’s radio signaling component, while not alerting the phone owner of the component’s real status.
This had allowed threat actors to track the phone’s location via cell towers and secretly transmit data from the phone when the user thought his device was in airplane mode or shut down.
Snowden’s interested in protecting journalists comes from his role as Director at the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
Device will alert the user when the phone starts broadcasting radio signals
The introspection engine will detect electrical signals going through the phone specific to the activation and usage of the radio signaling component, and alert the user via loud beeps.
By having a phone that doesn’t snitch on their position at every few minutes, reporters can go in sensitive locations and record audio and video with their phone without giving away their position.
Visually the device is nothing more than an bulky iPhone case extension, with a monochrome screen on the back of the phone that shows the owner’s “dark” status. Plans exist to incorporate a “kill switch” functionality to shut down the phone in case the radio broadcasting features come to life out of the blue.