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DARPA pays $21m to address Android security risks

June 25, 2012

Here at AndroidAuthority, we’ve discussed the growing importance of Android in military environments, ranging from tablets that can control UAVs to custom-designed Android smartphones equipped with fingerprint sensors and so forth. But one issue that arises as Android smartphones begin to be widely used by soldiers, is the Android OS isn’t exactly the most impenetrable OS out there. As it turns out, DARPA is also preoccupied with this issue and has issued a $21 million grant to a company called Invincea so that these security risks are addressed.

But before we start talking about Invincea’s projects, let’s take the time to learn exactly how the army takes advantage of smartphones, as stated by the DoD Chief Information Officer, Teresa Takai: “Through faster access to information and computing power from any location, field units can maneuver unfamiliar environments with real time mapping and data overlay capabilities; soldiers can identify friendly forces; engineers can take pictures of mechanical parts for immediate identification and replacement ordering; and military health care providers can diagnose injuries and remotely access lab results while away from hospital premises.”

The first project developed by Invincea for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA for short) made sure that the loss or theft of an Android smartphone used for military purposes doesn’t translate into an immediate security breach for the entire Department of Defense. The way Invincea accomplished this task was by encrypting the OS and filling up the memory with useless data. This project is already used by 3,000 US soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.

But the second Invincea project is by far more interesting, as it attempts to create a virtual environment that untrusted applications (Facebook!) can run into without being able to access to sensitive information such as its location, or the contacts it stores. Anup Ghosh, the founder of Invincea stated: “By separating untrusted apps and content we are preventing the compromise of the operating system”.

Although both projects are obviously of key importance for Android in the military field, it would also be very interesting for such software to become available for the general public as well. Feel free to drop us a comment in the section below and express your thoughts on the matter.