More and more people rely on their smartphones for most of their computing needs. However, the ubiquity of mobile devices and their communications networks opens up new opportunities for rogue cyber behavior. In order to better understand security risks associated with smartphones, Sandia National Laboratories in the U.S. has created a simulated network of 300,000 Android smartphones.

Called MegaDroid, the project’s aim is to create a software tool to serve as a template for other researchers developing similar environments, and also to study the behavior of such networks. The ultimate goal is to protect smartphones from hackers, viruses and any type of malicious activity, making them safer and less vulnerable.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi sensors mean smartphones are location-dependent and this provides an opportunity for attacks. The researchers used a spoof GPS based on a simulation of a typical urban smartphone user’s data. The information was then inserted into the GPS input of a self-contained Android virtual machine. Because the software on the virtual machine does not differentiate between location data and real GPS data, it creates a more accurate simulation environment.

The researchers have drawn on the expertise accumulated with previous, similar efforts for virtual Linux and Windows desktop systems. They are now planning on demonstrating the project to industry and government officials, in order to find possible collaborators. They say there is a need for the work because no one has previously attempted to understand smartphone networks on such a large scale.

The results of the project will be available for cyber researchers, and the technology could be extended to other platforms such as Apple’s iOS.

Sandia also plans on looking into issues of data protection and data leakage, which could be of particular interest to American government agencies such as the Department of Defense and Homeland Security.

Source: Sandia Labs