Your smartphone could be a hostile spy in your office

There are a few downsides of the astounding technology we have today.

A team from a Navy research office has announced a malware application that can use your phone to create a 3-D image of your office. Such a program could you be used to steal information from your office. For example, bank account numbers visible on checks, info on broker statements, info on your computer screens or calendars. Could also be used to figure out what nice stuff is in your den or living room. 

This isn’t a concept paper or theoretical discussion.  It is software that is in existence today and has been successfully tested.

MIT Technology Review discusses this malware in their article PlaceRaider:  The Military Smartphone Malware Designed to Steal Your Life.

Today Robert Templeman at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana, and a few pals at Indiana University reveal an entirely new class of ‘visual malware’ capable of recording and reconstructing a user’s environment in 3D. This then allows the theft of virtual objects such as financial information, data on computer screens and identity-related information.

The malware secretly takes pictures while suppressing the shutterclick, recording location and phone orientation. The pictures are compressed and sent to a server. The photos are combined to give a 3-D view of the space they were taken in.  Enough detail is visible to read routing information on checks sitting on the desk.

What then?

A malicious user can then browse this space looking for objects worth stealing and sensitive data such as credit card details, identity data or calendar details that reveal when the user might be away.

The team ran some tests and had other test participants look at the data:

Templeman and co say the tests went well. They were able to build detailed models of the room from all the data sets. What’s more, the 3D models made it vastly easier for malicious users to steal information from the personal office space than from the raw photos alone.

You can find the full report here. It is only 21 pages long, so you could browse it in a few minutes. Check out the photos of test rooms and the clear view of a check. 

The technological capabilities we have today are astounding.  There is a downside risk that we need to watch.

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