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NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has helped to design an iPhone 6 case that detects if a handset is transmitting data when it's in Airplane Mode.

The project was announced yesterday by design collaborator and American hacker Andrew "Bunnie" Huang, the founder of Bunnie Studios and best known for being the first person to hack the Xbox and for legally challenging the DCMA act.

Acr821342097496832-8341-1024x768-800x600.jpg
Mockup of Edward Snowden and Andrew Huang's iPhone case (Image: Huang & Snowden)

The concept for the case is described in a paper titled Against the Law: Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance, which explains that the design is to protect journalists, activists, and rights workers from being tracked by governments.

The case features probe wires that access the phone's antennae through the SIM slot to monitor signal transmission, while audible alarms and a display on the outside of the case inform users of their phone's status.

Snowden and Huang write that using Airplane Mode is "no defense" against radio transmission, which makes such a case necessary:
For example, on iPhones since iOS 8.2, GPS is active in airplane mode. Furthermore, airplane mode is a "soft switch" - the graphics on the screen have no essential correlation with the hardware state. Malware packages, peddled by hackers at a price accessible by private individuals, can activate radios without any indication from the user interface; trusting a phone that has been hacked to go into Airplane Mode is like trusting a drunk person to judge if they are sober enough to drive.
introspection-engine-concept-rendering-2-800x859.jpg
Concept design for the iPhone case (Image: Huang & Snowden)

The paper cites the case of American reporter Marie Colvin, who is reputed to have been tracked by the Assad regime in Syria and killed for covering stories about civilian casualties.

According to a lawsuit filed by Colvin's family this year, the Sunday Times journalist's location was discovered in part through the use of intercept devices that monitored satellite-dish and cellphone communications.

You can find out more about the project by reading the white paper at Pubpub.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Article Link: Edward Snowden Designed an iPhone Case to Guard Against Radio Snitching
 

576316

macrumors 601
May 19, 2011
4,056
2,556
Well I've always been suspicious of Airplane Mode anyway. Can a software setting actually block all incoming signals? Surely the hardware is still receiving/transmitting?
 
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CFreymarc

Suspended
Sep 4, 2009
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You don't need to get so hardware mod to do this. Just have an RF pick up in the case and monitor the iPhone RF traffic.
 

H2SO4

macrumors 603
Nov 4, 2008
5,190
6,422
I’m absolutely flat out flabbergasted to know that being in Airplane mode doesn’t actually mean the radios are off.
TIM! I thought you were a champion of privacy yet this is the crap I find in the manual;

  1. While airplane mode is on, you cannot make or receive calls or use features that require wireless communication.
  2. Turn off cellular services: Go to Settings, turn on Airplane Mode, then tap Wi-Fi and turn Wi-Fi on. Incoming phone calls are sent to voicemail. To resume cellular service, turn Airplane Mode off .
  3. Airplane mode disables the wireless features in order to reduce potential interference with aircraft operation and other electrical equipment.
  4. When airplane mode is on, * appears in the status bar at the top of the screen. No phone, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth signals are emitted from iPhone, and GPS reception is turned off .
Left some details out when it suited you to be a white knight?
(Details from an older iOS).
 

vooke

macrumors 6502
Jul 14, 2014
270
230
What is the point. If you are walking around with your phone in airplane mode, you might as well not carry a phone
The point is you may need the phone to be off for some time.

The case would sell only because restarting a phone takes some precious seconds. But what about removing the sim tray temporarily? Serves the same purpose as this case.

What I don't understand is why Apple can't put the phone completely dark
 
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blackcrayon

macrumors 68020
Mar 10, 2003
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I’m absolutely flat out flabbergasted to know that being in Airplane mode doesn’t actually mean the radios are off.
TIM! I thought you were a champion of privacy yet this is the crap I find in the manual;

  1. While airplane mode is on, you cannot make or receive calls or use features that require wireless communication.
  2. Turn off cellular services: Go to Settings, turn on Airplane Mode, then tap Wi-Fi and turn Wi-Fi on. Incoming phone calls are sent to voicemail. To resume cellular service, turn Airplane Mode off .
  3. Airplane mode disables the wireless features in order to reduce potential interference with aircraft operation and other electrical equipment.
  4. When airplane mode is on, * appears in the status bar at the top of the screen. No phone, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth signals are emitted from iPhone, and GPS reception is turned off .
Left some details out when it suited you to be a white knight?
(Details from an older iOS).

I have no idea why you're yelling at "TIM!", when the article specifically states that it would likely be malware or a hacked device that could prevent the switch from working properly. It doesn't say that Airplane Mode on a properly working device will not turn the wireless radios off. It simply says as a user, there is no way to know for *sure* if what the phone says is true so having an external monitor is the only foolproof way.

Leaving GPS on in Airplane Mode is a recent change and was done as a feature to help preserve battery life while you're simply trying to find your way somewhere. There's a second switch for Location Services if you want that turned off, which is probably for the better as a passive GPS receiver is in a different category than bluetooth, cellular, and wifi which transmit.
 

lowendlinux

macrumors 603
Sep 24, 2014
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I have no idea why you're yelling at "TIM!", when the article specifically states that it would likely be malware or a hacked device that could prevent the switch from working properly. It doesn't say that Airplane Mode on a properly working device will not turn the wireless radios off. It simply says as a user, there is no way to know for *sure* if what the phone says is true so having an external monitor is the only foolproof way.

Leaving GPS on in Airplane Mode is a recent change and was done as a feature to help preserve battery life while you're simply trying to find your way somewhere. There's a second switch for Location Services if you want that turned off, which is probably for the better as a passive GPS receiver is in a different category than bluetooth, cellular, and wifi which transmit.


That's exactly what it says

"For example, on iPhones since iOS 8.2, GPS is active in airplane mode. Furthermore, airplane mode is a "soft switch" - the graphics on the screen have no essential correlation with the hardware state."
 

blackcrayon

macrumors 68020
Mar 10, 2003
2,225
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That's exactly what it says

"For example, on iPhones since iOS 8.2, GPS is active in airplane mode. Furthermore, airplane mode is a "soft switch" - the graphics on the screen have no essential correlation with the hardware state."

Did you read far enough where I acknowledged that GPS stayed on in Airplane mode, why it should be that way, and why GPS has a separate switch?

And heh, of course airplane mode is a "soft switch", everything you do in software from the graphical user interface on a computer is a "soft switch". That's really a revelation? Even the physical buttons on an iPhone mostly toggle software functions, it isn't as if the mute slider electrically cuts the connection between the sound chip and the speakers :D
 

lowendlinux

macrumors 603
Sep 24, 2014
5,419
6,712
Germany
Did you read far enough where I acknowledged that GPS stayed on in Airplane mode, why it should be that way, and why GPS has a separate switch?

And heh, of course airplane mode is a "soft switch", everything you do in software from the graphical user interface on a computer is a "soft switch". That's really a revelation? Even the physical buttons on an iPhone mostly toggle software functions, it isn't as if the mute slider electrically cuts the connection between the sound chip and the speakers :D

Many disagree with you're assessment.. that also has nothing to do with it being malware to cause the switch to allow nothing like it's supposed to.

People screaming Tim are right if I hit airplane mode it needs to transmitting and receiving need to stop even for the GPS
 
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NT1440

macrumors G5
May 18, 2008
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I’m absolutely flat out flabbergasted to know that being in Airplane mode doesn’t actually mean the radios are off.
TIM! I thought you were a champion of privacy yet this is the crap I find in the manual;

  1. While airplane mode is on, you cannot make or receive calls or use features that require wireless communication.
  2. Turn off cellular services: Go to Settings, turn on Airplane Mode, then tap Wi-Fi and turn Wi-Fi on. Incoming phone calls are sent to voicemail. To resume cellular service, turn Airplane Mode off .
  3. Airplane mode disables the wireless features in order to reduce potential interference with aircraft operation and other electrical equipment.
  4. When airplane mode is on, * appears in the status bar at the top of the screen. No phone, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth signals are emitted from iPhone, and GPS reception is turned off .
Left some details out when it suited you to be a white knight?
(Details from an older iOS).


....Airplane mode on cell phones can be spoofed to still allow communications. If the device is NOT being spoofed, Airplane mode works exactly how you think it does.
 

Cineplex

macrumors 6502a
Jan 1, 2016
741
2,012
Looks like Snowden is looking for work.

Anyone who "needs" this, doesn't need a phone. If your life depends on not being tracked....don't take electronics with you. There is no reason to trust any phone that you can't take the battery out of. If you have to disable a phone....why take it?

Some simple solutions:
1. Dont carry a phone
2. Remove the battery (use a phone with removable battery
3. RF blocking bag/case

I don't trust Snowden anymore than I trust a guy selling watches on the streets of NYC. Despite how you feel about him and his intentions....he did steal our countries data, gave it to everyone, and then flew to Russia with it.
 

ThunderSkunk

macrumors 68040
Dec 31, 2007
3,405
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Milwaukee Area
Eventually one day I can see myself going back to no phone at all. I know it's a thought most can't comprehend. But I'm promising myself, little by little that I don't need a smart phone anymore.
I did. Went from standing in line overnight for the first iphone, to cellular ipad w/skype, to wifi ipad w/skype, to office phone only. + it's like getting a bonus trip to hawaii every year.
 
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Cineplex

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Jan 1, 2016
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interested to know your feelings if Snowden was Russian, probably named Snowdin, stole Russia's secrets and flew to the US
I still wouldn't buy a security device from him.:D

I don't trust any of this junk. When I want to drop off "the grid", I just leave my phone at home. Just sayin..,
 
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