Ever since we first connected to the Internet, security and privacy issues have existed on personal computers. Now our mobile devices—smart phones and tablets—are a whole new frontier for potential problems. The Guardian Project, an initiative based on Google’s Android mobile operating system, is aiming to address the inherent vulnerabilities in these devices and safeguard them from intrusions.
Mobile devices can hold an enormous amount of personal information—your website IDs and passwords, your Web search history, even your Social Security and credit-card numbers—and it’s getting easier for unscrupulous entities to get at your data. We recently wrote about invasive malware that was pulled from the Google Android Market, as well as an investigation into some smart-phone apps that may be pulling more information from you than you realized. And one of today’s breaking stories details how your phone may be tracking your every move.
The Guardian Project “aims to create easy to use mobile apps, open-source firmwares, and customized, commercial mobile phones that can be used and deployed around the world, by any person looking to protect their communications from unjust intrusion,” according to its website.
Why did they choose the Android platform to build these apps? Google’s OS is “open-source”—meaning that any software developer who wants to create applications for Android has free access to its building blocks.
If you own an Android phone or tablet and want to try a secure Guardian Project app, there are already several available for download through the Android market. One is Orbot, an application that lets you access the Web and do instant messaging and e-mail without being monitored or blocked by your mobile Internet service provider.
Another Guardian Project app, Gibberbot, is a replacement for the built-in Google Talk app that uses the Off-the-Record [OTR] standard to allow for encrypted instant messaging that's compatible with many other IM clients. And in the works are apps providing encrypted Voice over IP (VoIP), secure location tracking via GPS, remote data wiping (in case your device is stolen or you lose it), and encrypted instant messaging, among other projects.
You can find out more about the Guardian Project at its website, and even participate, if you’re a developer. And for more context and history, see this excellent story at Arts Technica (“For paranoid Androids, Guardian Project offers smartphone security”).