MANHASSET, NY -- A team of Virginia Tech researchers has modified Google’s Android operating system to create security features to remotely lock smart phones and wipe out sensitive data downloaded in specific physical locations.
“There are commercial products that do limited versions of these things, but nothing that allows for automating wiping and complete control of settings and apps on smart phones and tablets,” explained Jules White, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “This system provides something that has never been available before. It puts physical boundaries around information in cyberspace.”
“Technology like this may be ripe not only for commercialization, but it could also improve our nation’s defense and security,” said John Provo, director of the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development.
The team recently demonstrated the software for an inside-the-beltway
Tech Intelligence and Defense Executive Alumni., composed of
Virginia Tech alums who are interested in research that may benefit
intelligence and military agencies.
Medical caregivers could also be beneficiaries of the technology by safeguarding patient privacy.The software also enables central control of phone features such as preventing a smart phone’s camera or email from working.
“For instance, you could keep certain apps from working in the operating room so surgeons wouldn’t get distracted, or you could prevent nurses from taking patient photos and putting them on the Internet,” said White. "In that same way, parents could restrict children from texting to prevent distraction at school."
Last month Virginia Tech in cooperation with government contractors L-3 Communications, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, and security firm Verisign Labs established an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center in cybersecurity. Virginia Tech received from the NSF a five-year continuing grant to establish the center.
This new cybersecurity site joins the Security and Software Engineering Research Center (S2ERC), which is led by Ball State University and includes a primary site at Iowa State University and now Virginia Tech.
The NSF established S2ERC 25 years ago as the only I/UCRC dedicated to software engineering and recently rechartered the center with an added focus on security.
"A number of high-profile incidents have caused both the federal government and private industry to re-prioritize computer and network security," said Charles Clancy, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech and director of The Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology. This has resulted in a major need for research and education in the field."
Recently, in collaboration with the Naval Postgraduate School and L-3 Communications, Virginia Tech recently launched the Arlington-based Cybersecurity Innovations Lab.