This Snowden-designed device can alert if your iPhone is being snooped upon

A working prototype is likely to be out by next year

News Desk July 22, 2016
Apple iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are displayed during an Apple media event in San Francisco, California, September 9, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

If your line of work requires maintaining total secrecy and you are constantly worried that someone would hack into your iPhone to listen to your phone calls, then former National Security Agency (NSA) employee Edward Snowden might have a solution for you.

Snowden, in collaboration with well-known hardware hacker Andrew 'Bunnie' Huang, is designing an iPhone case to eliminate the risk of snooping by outside parties.

The case, which is still in concept phase, would wires into your iPhone’s guts to monitor the electrical signals sent to its internal antennas in order to check whether your phone’s radios are transmitting.

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The device, which would look like an external battery case with a small mono-colour display, would connect to the phone through tiny probe via SIM card slot to attach to test points on the phone’s circuit board. In order to give device the entry, the SIM card would be moved to the case.

It would then monitor GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular radios, and trigger an alert if they transmit anything when they're not supposed to be.

Snowden and Huang say it is a more trustworthy method of knowing your phone’s radios are off than “airplane mode”, which people have shown can be hacked and spoofed. Hackers with sophisticated technologies — such as those at the NSA — can snoop on your phone even when it is on “airplane mode”.

The device is aimed at journalists and rights workers who need to be sure that phones are not being snooped upon by those with advance hacking abilities, especially government-funded agencies, while carrying devices into hostile countries.

“One good journalist in the right place at the right time can change history,” Snowden told the MIT Media Lab crowd via video stream on Thursday. “This makes them a target, and increasingly tools of their trade are being used against them.”

A working prototype is likely to be out by next year and the long-term goal is to launch a Chinese supply chain of modified iPhones that can be supplied to journalists.

The article originally appeared on Wired.

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