With just days before its close, 2017 has proven to be a startling year for those concerned about the security of their web identities. May through July of this year saw a massive data breach of servers held by consumer reporting giant Equifax, leading to the theft of identifying information on 145 million customers in the United States alone. Ride sharing app and transport company Uber came clean on a previously unreported 2016 hack in which driver license info for 600,000 of their own employees was stolen. Only days ago, security insiders revealed that data analytics company Alteryx had failed to secure its servers, leaving information on 120 million Americans ripe for the taking.
Given the sheer threat that identity theft proposes, creating apps that enable users to better secure privately held data on their own devices is an industry likely to boom next year in the wake of these and other high-profile hacks. Android users have a promising new solution in the form of Haven, an open source app that promises to turn Android phones into a veritable surveillance system to prevent not remote hacks, but data breaches caused by criminals gaining direct access to the phone.
Rather than being built around the most cutting-edge Android devices, the app is also suitable for budget models and older Android phones. The app harnesses the phone’s camera and audio recording features, along with more subtle features like the accelerometer, to help owners record and track criminals who attempt to tamper or breach the device in-hand.
Haven was developed by a partnership between Freedom Of The Press, The Guardian Project, and, perhaps most interestingly, Eric Snowden. Snowden, a former CIA employee who now resides via temporary asylum in Russia, is famous for leaking NSA and other agencies’ documents that opened up the esoteric world of mass surveillance. A controversial figure, Snowden’s connection to the project may still lend some credibility given his tech security and computer systems administration background.
While the app is promising, it does have a few issues that could hopefully be addressed in later updates. The system requires a constant internet connection in order to notify users of breaches in real time, which in turn can prove draining on the battery, especially for older devices. Likewise, the app will need some fine-tuning to help weed out the reporting of false positives. All told, while Haven is far from the ultimate security app, it is an innovative new direction for securing smartphones.