Snowden’s Haven App Turns An Android Phone Into A Sensor

A new app from Edward Snowden and The Guardian Project makes it possible for an extra Android phone to monitor physical objects and spaces.

Haven

The app, Haven, is designed to be installed on an Android burner phone that isn’t used as your main phone. As the Haven website points out, you should be able to purchase one of these phones for less than $100.

What Haven Does

What the app does is leverage all of the Android phone’s on-device sensors into a sort of mobile security system. Haven can save images and sounds when the device is triggered by motion or volume, so you’ll know if someone has moved your phone or has been in the vicinity of your device.

As the app’s description notes, “You can position the device’s camera to capture visible motion, or set your phone somewhere discreet to just listen for noises.” All triggered events are stored locally on the device, and instant secure notifications of these events can be sent to your main mobile phone. (Notifications can be sent through SMS or the encrypted Signal app.) Event logs can be accessed remotely, or later from the device itself.

Currently, there’s no iPhone Haven app, though developers hope to create one in the future. However, iPhone users can still use Haven as it exists now. iPhone users can use an Android burner phone to send encrypted notifications through the Signal app for iOS, and logs can also be accessed remotely by using the Orbot app and Tor Onion Service feature found in Haven.

Many Uses

Though Haven has obvious appeal for high-risk users — national security employees who can never let their laptops fall into the wrong hands, for example — there are certainly other, broader use cases. Many users may want to monitor their personal equipment, especially when in a public space, or when staying in someone else’s home or a hotel. Possible uses also go beyond the access of a laptop.

”I can imagine this might be useful to victims of domestic abuse who are worried about their abusers spying on them in some way,” Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity for Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Intercept.

Galperin’s main concern with the app is false positives — someone may be near your equipment, but may have absolutely no intent on stealing it or accessing your data. “Maybe the maid isn’t evil. Sometimes the maid is just a maid,” she said.

[For other inexpensive sensors to use around the home, check out our list of Eight Home Security Products For Under $50.]

The Intercept also tested out Haven, and the publication gets deeper into long-term use of the app, including how to use Haven without paying for mobile service on the burner phone itself (there are a few ways of making it work).

It’s early in Haven’s lifespan — the app is currently in beta and has a number of bugs — but it is open-source and is bound to improve over time. The very existence of the app is a positive for those looking to add a layer of physical security to their personal and professional devices.

Phil Dzikiy

Phil Dzikiy

Phil Dzikiy is the former editor in chief of Security Baron. Before, he has worked as a freelance writer and editor at websites like Wirecutter.com and iLounge.com along with publications like the Lockport Union Sun & Journal and the Greater Niagara Newspapers. With digital and print experience under his belt, Phil has a passion for all things technology including home security, cyber security, and the smart home. His bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland College Park initially landed Phil his first job at the Beaver County Times, which has lead to over 15 years of experience as a journalist.

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