How about having an Android device on hand where you can store even the most sensitive of data without ever having to worry of them falling into the wrong hands? A group of researchers at Virginia Tech claim to have achieved just such a feat, as the software they have developed for the Android OS works on the basis of the current location of the device where it is situated. Or to put it in even more simple terms, if you have a smartphone or a tablet running Android and there are documents of classified nature stored in the devices, any move to smuggle the devices outside of the room will alert the software and will lead to the classified data being wiped off the tablet or smartphone’e memory. No wonder, Google’s federal government group and several defense systems integrator have already evinced interest in the software.
The team at Virginia Tech has made use of Bluetooth and near field communications (NFC) wireless signals to enforce the policy zones which can be as small as conference rooms. This was necessary as all existing technology, such as GPS, that is used to locate a phone or other technologies to secure data in a phone, are not effective enough for devising room level policies. What the Virginia Tech researchers have essentially achieved is that they have modified the Android operating system enough to be able to install their policy engine on top of Android’s own security model.
Jules White, assistant professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in Virginia Tech, explained the software passes a a location-based key to the phone using NFC while for confirming its location to a management server, the phone makes use of Bluetooth.
“We could theoretically do that all with just Bluetooth,” explained White while further adding: “But NFC adds that extra guarantee that you’re actually in the room.”
The location based authentication along with the policy engine can then be used to exert control over the device, like enabling or disabling various features and applications.
“If you walk out of the room, or you haven’t hit the NFC key for a certain amount of time,” explained White, “it can clear the data out of memory.”
The software can also dictate where the applications should store the data as the software is also able to keep a tab on the inter-process communications on the phone. This will ensure the data will always be stored in the device’s memory and not on the SIM.
Possible applications of the software include protecting military and intelligence information. Doctors will be able to keep their patient related data on their tablet PCs. There is also the provision to maintain some order in classrooms as students can be barred from sending text messages during classes.