We’re all guilty of it -- blindly accepting the terms and conditions when downloading a new app. We just seem to accept that apps are going to access our camera, location, etc, and don’t even seem to care anymore. Well, that will be just fine come 2016 -- Qualcomm has our backs.
The Snapdragon 820 processing chip will be installed in some smartphones at that time, and it has the ability to keep a watchful eye on your apps, alerting you if something seems to be out of the ordinary. They’re calling it Smart Protect, and it just might be the chip that saves us from our blind acceptance.
Why It’s Necessary
Security researchers point to flashlight apps as an example. Cnet reports there was a list published by a cybersecurity firm called SnoopWall containing the top 10 flashlight apps on the Android platform in February, and if you’d downloaded the app, you might not realize that the app is granted access to your camera to take pictures and videos.
SnoopWall recommended users delete these apps immediately, and even recommended they restore their phones and ensure that the camera is covered when not in use, or go so far as to remove the battery when you’re not using it. It’s kind of like living your life in a bomb shelter when there are no bombs falling -- while the app might access the camera, there is no proof hackers are actually taking advantage of this.
How It Works
Enter the Smart Protect chip. If you were to use your flashlight on a phone with the chip installed and close it out when you’re done, your chip is watching and waiting. The moment it senses your location data is being transmitted after the app is closed, and that it has started taking pictures you aren’t aware of, you’d receive an alert.
The chip also alerts you when you’re about to install a malicious app. If a trustworthy app is hacked, you’ll also be alerted. One thing that should be noted: phone manufacturers and antivirus mobile apps are responsible for writing their program to tap into the capabilities of this chip.
So what makes this any different than the security apps already available for download? Qualcomm points out that there are those genius hackers that can fool the security apps, but with this technology lying processor-deep, it’s much harder to fool. Apps see a portion of the picture, but the chip sees all.
Who’s Jumping Onboard
As of the time of writing, AVG, Lookout, and Avast -- antivirus companies -- have agreed to work with these chips. There is no word as to which phone companies will embrace the technology.
There’s no question that this is a step in the right direction for the security of users everywhere. The other piece of the puzzle that needs to be addressed is how apps and app permissions are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.
Anyone can complain to the FCC about how an app is using your data, but with no regulations in place, what can really be done? The only hope is that enough complaints will push the FCC into action, drafting regulations to give the power back to the users.