Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Securing Hand-Held Devices

 Sandia National Laboratories located in California is researching how to prevent and mitigate disruptions to computer networks on the internet specifically concentrating on smartphones and other hand-held computing devices.

Sandia cyber researchers have linked 300,000 virtual hand-held computing devices that run on the Android operating system so they can study large networks of smartphones and find ways to make them more reliable and secure. Androids dominate the smartphone industry and run on a range of computing gadgets.

The main challenge in studying Android-based machines is the sheer complexity of the Google software. Google developed the Android operating system and wrote some 14 million lines of code into the software. According to researchers, working with that amount of code, it is possible for something to go wrong on the scale of a big wireless network because of a coding mistake in an operating system or an application which can be very hard to diagnose and fix.

The research is expected to result in a software tool that will enable others in the cyber research community to model similar environments and be able to study the behaviors of smartphone networks. Ultimately, the tool will enable the computing industry to better protect hand-held devices from malicious intent.

The Android project dubbed “MegaDroid” is expected to help researchers at Sandia and elsewhere who struggle to understand large scale networks. In the near future, Sandia expects to complete a sophisticated demonstration of the “MegaDroid” project to present to potential industries or government collaborators. Much of Sandia’s work on virtual computing environments will be available for other cyber researchers via open source.

Sandia’s researchers see the possibility of extending the technology to other platforms besides Android. For instance, Apple’s iOS could take advantage of the toolkit under development. Researchers also plan to use “MegaDroid” to explore issues of data protections for specific agencies such as DOD and the Department of Homeland Security.