Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance

Completely separate from the Section 1201 lawsuit against the Department of Justice, I’m working with the FPF on a project to counter lawful abuses of digital surveillance. Here’s the abstract:

Front-line journalists are high-value targets, and their enemies will spare no expense to silence them. Unfortunately, journalists can be betrayed by their own tools. Their smartphones are also the perfect tracking device. Because of the precedent set by the US’s “third-party doctrine,” which holds that metadata on such signals enjoys no meaningful legal protection, governments and powerful political institutions are gaining access to comprehensive records of phone emissions unwittingly broadcast by device owners. This leaves journalists, activists, and rights workers in a position of vulnerability. This work aims to give journalists the tools to know when their smart phones are tracking or disclosing their location when the devices are supposed to be in airplane mode. We propose to accomplish this via direct introspection of signals controlling the phone’s radio hardware. The introspection engine will be an open source, user-inspectable and field-verifiable module attached to an existing smart phone that makes no assumptions about the trustability of the phone’s operating system.

You can find out more about the project by reading the white paper at Pubpub.

29 Responses to “Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance”

  1. […] radio transmissions by a cellphone, including GPS, and a means for killing the transmissions. Abstract here, and the paper itself here. Very straightforward reads even for the non- to low-tech […]

  2. conway says:

    > You can find out more about the project by reading the white paper at Pubpub.

    Well, I can’t, because I browse via Tor—to counter digital surveillance—and that site blocks Tor users. Is there a mirror?

    • bunnie says:

      Sorry about that, I’ve sent a note to the pubpub.org maintainers to see if something can’t be done about this problem.

  3. Kelvin says:

    Since we are willing to open up the phone for modification, why not simply introduce a (physical) switch between the battery and the phone. You loose the ability to use the phone when you turned it off, but it is a simpler solution that will work across most, if not all, phones.

  4. […] Additional articles can be read here: Boston Globe iDigital Times bunnie’s blog […]

  5. […] why he’s collaborating with famed hardware hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang to create an iPhone 6 case that can detect whether your phone is transmitting data when it’s not supposed to. The idea is to protect journalists, rights workers and the like from […]

  6. […] why he’s collaborating with famed hardware hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang to create an iPhone 6 case that can detect whether your phone is transmitting data when it’s not supposed to. The idea is to protect journalists, rights workers and the like from […]

  7. […] project was announced yesterday by design collaborator and American hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, the founder […]

  8. […] project was announced yesterday by design collaborator and American hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, the founder […]

  9. […] why he’s collaborating with famed hardware hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang to create an iPhone 6 case that can detect whether your phone is transmitting data when it’s not supposed to. The idea is to protect journalists, rights workers and the like from […]

  10. […] project was announced yesterday by design collaborator and American hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, the founder […]

  11. Andrew says:

    How do I donate to support this project?

  12. […] reporters risk their lives to news from dispute regions,” Bunnie pronounced in a blog post. “Casting a spotlight on atrocities, their updates can change a tides of fight and outcomes […]

  13. […] ‘Bunnie’ Huang announced this project the day before yesterday and a paper published describing the concept, mentioning that […]

  14. […] project was announced yesterday by design collaborator and American hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, the founder […]

  15. Matt Mills says:

    Why a case? why not a whole phone, open from the ground up? I’m sure you have your reasons, I just wonder what they are.

  16. akuktin@gmail.com says:

    This is a waste of time. If you already have the technology and capability to build something that can operate within the envelope of mobile phone or GPS signaling, why not build an ACTUALL phone that you KNOW will not transmit when it is not supposed to? I’m dead serious. Crap like this diverts labor away from actually usable pursuits and just makes sure the current lifestyle continues unabated.

    But I guess that’s what you want.

    • Tom McLeod says:

      This is significantly simpler than building up a full phone. In fact if you’d read their publication they don’t intend to do anything with RF anyway. All you need for this is an FPGA, a basic microcontroller or CPU (you could even put that on the FPGA), and some software/gateware. Building up a fully open source phone with an open source baseband would be many orders of magnitude more difficult as it requires some serious cutting edge RF engineering to be worth doing.

  17. Robert Lund says:

    Hi Bunnie!

    I am doing research and was wondering if you could inform me of exactly what Snowden is contributing to this project? Was it the general idea? What it specifics of how the phone is collected on? Was it any actual coding or hardware specifically? I’m trying to get an idea of how much of this technology is from you and more specifically how much is from Snowden exactly.

  18. It’s a great device for alerting people when their phones are transmitting metadata. This open source system will protect the location of important journalists and other hacktivists who are working on sensitive issues.

  19. […] per primo la Xbox originale e aver installato su di essa Linux, ed ha appena presentato una ricerca su un prototipo anti-sorveglianza in collaborazione con Edward Snowden; Greene è un luminare di crittografia applicata alla John […]

  20. I read this post completely about the comparison of latest and preceding technologies, it’s remarkable
    article.

  21. […] 보호에 앞장서고 있다. ‘인트로스펙션 엔진‘이라고 불리는 이 […]

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