Android Phones Can Be Tracked By Battery Usage
A new study has been conducted which has provided evidence that battery power alone is enough to track down the location of an Android phone. The malicious software that users encounter on their mobile phones asks for permissions to gain entry, and if the users are careful enough, they can stop them. To test this, researchers developed a new app named PowerSpy. It asks for harmless permissions like access to network connectivity and access to power data. On the surface, the requests seem safe, but authors write in their paper that this allows them to track down the location of users’ mobile phone without raising any suspicion.
The men behind this discovery, Yan Michalevsky, Dan Boneh, Aaron Schulman and Gabi Nakibly, explain how this new app differs from the other malware and even legitimate monitoring solutions like Mobistealth.
“The malicious app has neither permission to access the GPS nor other location providers (e.g. cellular or Wi-Fi network). We only assume permission for network connectivity and access to the power data. These are very common permissions for an application, and are unlikely to raise suspicion on the part of the victim.”
The team added that these permissions will help them blend in as there are 179 other apps that are using the same permissions.
The researchers used Nexus 4 Android phone to test their location testing, but they assure that their app would work fine on other devices as well.
The researchers further state in their paper that all the activities that drain battery of a mobile phone such as listening to music, playing video game, using internet, social media etc. can be discounted due to machine learning.
“Using machine learning, we show that measuring the phone’s aggregate power consumption over time completely reveals the phone’s location and movement. Intuitively, the reason why all this noise does not mislead our algorithms is that the noise is not correlated with the phone’s location. Therefore, a sufficiently long power measurement (several minutes) enables the learning algorithm to “see” through the noise.”
All of this is great work from the researchers and just goes to show that there isn’t much privacy left nowadays. Users had to worry about malware, spyware, adware. But now with this new study, it seems that we will be needing mobile phones that can run without battery.
The invasion of privacy is nothing new and the way people react to privacy scandals now, it seems they have gotten used to it. Not because they like it, but mainly because there’s nothing they can do about it. The NSA (National Security Agency) has been spying on the activity of people for quite some time now and they claim that all of the spying is done so that the citizens can be kept safe from the attacks. We live in a digital age now where almost everything is done online and whenever an individual connects to the internet, he/she basically opens themselves to privacy invasion.