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Cellphones Technology

Inside Boeing's New Self-Destructing Smartphone 162

Posted by samzenpus
from the wiped-clean dept.
mpicpp writes "It looks thicker than most of the phones you see at Best Buy, but Boeing's first smartphone isn't meant to be used by the average person. The company that's known for its airplanes is joining the smartphone game with the Boeing Black, targeted at people that work in the security and defense industry. One of its security features is self-destructing if it gets into the wrong hands, although not quite in the Mission Impossible sense. According to the company's letter to the FCC, the phone will have screws with a tamper-proof coating, revealing if a person has tried to disassemble it. 'Any attempt to disassemble the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable,' writes Bruce Olcott, an attorney for Boeing."
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Inside Boeing's New Self-Destructing Smartphone

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  • " . . . this phone message will destroy your phone in 15 seconds . . . "

  • by C0R1D4N (970153)
    So...take a dremel and cut the case around the screws.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28, 2014 @06:47AM (#46366217)

      "screws with a tamper-proof coating, revealing if a person has tried to disassemble it"

      I'm pretty sure I would notice if someone took a dremel to my phone.

      • by swillden (191260)

        "screws with a tamper-proof coating, revealing if a person has tried to disassemble it"

        I'm pretty sure I would notice if someone took a dremel to my phone.

        No you wouldn't. You'd just know your phone was gone. And you'd believe that at least your data was safe, because the self-destruct would have been triggered when the thief removed the screws. Except it wasn't.

        • The people that would use this phone are probably no as worried about someone taking their phone and attempting to access their encrypted data, rather they are worried about compromising their phone and any other systems their phone connects to.
      • Judging by the target audience my guess is they are afraid of a lot more subtle tampering techniques than using a dremel. I would fully expect that a professional, of the types they are worried about, could disassemble your phone modify it it and reassemble it without your being the wiser. Which is why they want it to be impossible, or at least exceedingly difficult, to hide tampering and want it to self destruct.

      • "screws with a tamper-proof coating, revealing if a person has tried to disassemble it"

        I'm pretty sure I would notice if someone took a dremel to my phone.

        Yes, but would the data-wiping routines get activated? (Probably yes, unless you have a couple of phones to practice on and/or a good X-ray machine.)

  • Tamper-proof screws? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Friday February 28, 2014 @06:39AM (#46366191) Homepage Journal

    Oh, and you generally don't do a tamper 'proof' coating on screws, you do a 'tamper-evident' coating.

    Want your own tamper evident coating? Buy a bottle of the cheapest, cheesiest glitter nail polish you can find. Coat the screws with a layer. Take a high resolution picture of each screw. Suspect tampering? compare the current coating with the picture.

    As for deleting the data off the device, I'd probably simply encrypt everything on the device, with the key stored in a specific chip designed to dump said key if anything triggers it. No Key = No Data.

    • by Bert64 (520050)

      A tamper coating like that will get gradually damaged just through normal wear and tear...

      • A tamper coating like that will get gradually damaged just through normal wear and tear...

        Requiring the owner to buy a new $10,000 phone every year, it's brilliant.

    • I wish you hadn't said that. I spent 3 hours trying to turn my phone fast enough to take a picture of the backside.
    • by gweihir (88907)

      Side note: Nobody in the security industry that is trustworthy claims "tamper proof". Nothing is and hence the thing to claim is "tamper resistant".

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      As for deleting the data off the device, I'd probably simply encrypt everything on the device, with the key stored in a specific chip designed to dump said key if anything triggers it. No Key = No Data.

      This technique is incredibly common - the iPhone has done it ever since the 3GS 5 years ago.

      I would think the Boeing one goes one further and rather than storing the key encrypted with a per-ASIC key in flash, the key is in SRAM that's wiped when battery power is cut or other thing.

      And it's often hardware bas

  • Cold disassembly? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Megan Woods (2920951) on Friday February 28, 2014 @06:48AM (#46366221)
    How would it go if it were chilled right down, liquid nitrogen or colder so the electronics stopped working and then disassembled. (I don't know if it's possible, just kicking the idea around.)
    • by gweihir (88907)

      No use speculating without somebody competent doing an analysis of the thing. It certainly is one of the possible techniques, but whether it helps or is needed is unclear.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Given that the battery's removable, I can think of a quicker way to stop the electronics working.

      • One could assume that there must still be some extra supercapacitor to power the self-destruct work if the phone has been cracked open with the main battery missing.
  • by nimid (774403) on Friday February 28, 2014 @06:50AM (#46366227) Homepage
    I see they're using the same battery technology they used in the Dreamliner then.
  • ATM keypads (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DoubleJ1024 (1287512) on Friday February 28, 2014 @07:14AM (#46366307)
    When I worked in the ATM industry we already had that feature built into the keypad (EPP). If you tried to extract the keys any number of ways (freeze spray, remove back cover, cut front cover, etc.) it would dump the memory and leave the attacker with nothing. All you have to do is contact one of the companies that built those EPP's and they can guide you into a LOW COST hardware method of dumping everything. You don't need to go with a fancy "custom coating" that might fail or have alternative issues. I would not buy this phone as it is over-priced, and I can do the same thing with a common android smartphone and a little software and hardware tweaking. Epoxy is your friend for keeping people out of things they don't need to see, as is encryption with delete upon failure to decrypt. What a joke, but they will sell a bunch of them to Gov. and "special" people.
    • by gweihir (88907)

      Don't depend on that when you have really expensive secrets, and that is what this phone is aimed at. With an ATM, I would expect the maximum loss if somebody attacks this successfully is around 10 Million USD/EUR. (I think the card-cloners that recently went around got 3.5 Million only.) Also remember that an ATM keypad affords a steel front-plate, excellent RF shielding, no access from behind and the ATM itself comes with a number of tamper detectors and usually has a direct line to the police or some sec

    • If I were an average ATM attacker, I'd be more interested in the cash it contains than any data. You can pick up credit account info anywhere, Target, for instance.

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        But the ATM doesn't contain much cash, and has serious safeguards in place against theft. The bank accounts of the people using it on the other hand...

        Hell, one time I paid down my brother's credit card debt from my bank account - it was actually rather scary. They transferred thousands of dollars out of my account given nothing more than his word, the account number on the bottom of every one of my checks, and a validation call to a prepaid cell phone number he provided.

        • Maybe they're not all as loaded, but a friend worked at a bank (basically drive up, park and walk access, albeit on Miami Beach) and on a Friday night they'd stock their ATM with $50K, and half of it would be legally withdrawn by Saturday morning.

          If your brother had defrauded you, you could go after him in court and make a bunch of lawyers rich while you attempt to recover a piece of your money.

          Hatred of lawyers is probably what keeps most people honest, whether they know it or not.

    • I would not buy this phone as it is over-priced, and I can do the same thing with a common android smartphone and a little software and hardware tweaking.

      You don't understand that spending tax dollars is way different then spending your own dollars.

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        Hell, to the corporate folks this would appeal to it wouldn't make much difference one way or the other, what's a few minutes of income compared to keeping your secrets safe from espionage.

  • They are basically claiming they have a HSM here. Now, HSMs are as expensive as they are for a reason (50'000 USD/EUR is quite standard). One is that attackers have to pay a lot to get their hands on one for analysis. Another is to have several layers of protection, several independent power sources, solid steel tamper barriers, etc. Still, they are designed to be secure when in a 19" rack in a secured data-center and when it becomes obvious fast that one has been removed.

    I expect that a good hardware hacke

    • Layers upon layers - there's the "common" model that goes out to all field personnel and is assumed to be compromised within a few months.

      Then, there's high security model that is designed to look like the common model, but goes only to high value targets and might be redesigned and redeployed every time one gets lost.

      Then, there's the higher security model that is designed to look like the high security model, but....

      Is it any wonder that a toilet seat can cost $9,000?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28, 2014 @07:59AM (#46366405)

    will it blend?

  • Not sure where to go with this one. Is the joke supposed to be "So, Boeing has teamed up with Sony to use their batteries in a new smart phone..." or "Leveraging the battery technology used in the 787 Dreamliner..."

  • The only difference seems to be that with this phone, if an attacker tries to get at the data you end up with a non-working phone and an attacker without data, while with an iPhone you end up with a working phone and an attacker without data. OK, this phone has also some more security claims, but of course they are not proven.
  • So, where's the added summary about the "related story" of how Google admits that Android's focus isn't on security and that malware writers should target their OS rather than Apple's or Microsoft's?

    Or was that story only related when Slashdot was attempting to water down the discussion of Google's comments with a topic that actually had nothing what-so-ever to do with Google's comments?

    Don't worry. I already know the answer to those questions.

    It was nice when this site did a better job of disguising it's b

  • by jimbolauski (882977) on Friday February 28, 2014 @09:44AM (#46366809) Journal
    The biggest issue with this phone is not weather it can be tampered with without the owners knowledge, but that anyone that has one of these phones will be instantly noticeable as a high value target. The only people that this device makes sense for are public figures, senators, congressmen, CEO's of large defense contractors, ... Everyone else will be better protected by following simple security precautions and not carrying around a large flag that says I'm worth the effort.
    • There's the low cost version that just looks like the secure one and is mandated for use by all contracted workers.

      I had a Blackberry like that once.

  • This sounds not like it will protect your data but will keep crypto researchers from finding that the NSA has put a back door into the product. Quite simply if it comes from the US, Canada, Australia, or the UK the product is not to be trusted. Which is sad as I am a Canadian and would love to make crypto products but at this point wouldn't trust even a company that had US citizens working for it let along based in the US.

    This might be the most solid argument against these spy agencies, whatever "attacks"
  • by mindcandy (1252124) on Friday February 28, 2014 @10:33AM (#46367165)
    FIPS-140 (and 140-2) address exactly this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org]

    At FIPS-140 Level 4, the crypto keys are stored on a unit that actively monitors for attack by environmental, electromagnetic, and physical methods.The physical is usually handled by a mesh of gridwires over the die.

    The problem, of course, is Boeing is in bed with the government for Billions (Trillions) of dollars worth of military hardware, so don't think they'd sell you an Android phone before having a friendly chat with their friends at [A-Z]{3}.
  • In that case it should be easy and in this case it will be a feature.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/... [usatoday.com]

  • [Disclaimer: I work for The Boeing Company, buy my comments are my own and do not reflect the position of the company.]

    Let me state that this is probably a very good idea, even through this is the first that I've heard about the device. Often the biggest problem when dealing with smartphones is protecting sensitive data, be it emails or documents being stored on the device. Commercial solutions are often lacking in security, which is why Blackberry still exists as a company. Their offerings are much
    • [Disclaimer: I do not work for Apple]

      Pure FUD. Go to the Apple website, do a bit of searching around, until you find the document describing the iPhone security features. At this point in time, there is no police force that can read email from a confiscated iPhone unless the user unlocks it.
      • [Disclaimer: I do not work for Apple] Pure FUD. Go to the Apple website, do a bit of searching around, until you find the document describing the iPhone security features. At this point in time, there is no police force that can read email from a confiscated iPhone unless the user unlocks it.

        Care to try again? From Forbes:

        But even when those login safeguards are set up in other cases, law enforcement have still often been able to use tools to bypass or brute-force a phone’s security measures. Google in some cases helps law enforcement to get past Android phones’ lockscreens, and if law enforcement can’t crack a seized iPhone, officers will in some cases mail the phone to Apple, who extract the data and return it stored on a DVD along with the locked phone.

  • Extrapolating I find that within the next 10 years there will be no company left that is not at its core in the smartphone business.

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