Researchers Fine-Tune Android to Lock Apps Based on Location

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Admit it: Sometimes you like to pretend that you’re a spy who has some sensitive material on your cellphone that just can’t fall into the wrong hands. Well, if you have an Android phone, some Virginia Tech researchers can help you out with that.

According to Jules White, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the school, researchers have “created an enterprise policy engine… based on a custom version of Android that allows us on a really fine-grain level to control the services and the apps on the phone so that we can control these things on a really, really fine grain level.” For example, making information disappear if the phone is outside of a specific location.

See? That’s some secret spy stuff right there.

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The researchers’ engine uses Bluetooth and other communications infrastructure to work out where the device is, and from that, what access they have to specific information.

But that’s not all it does, says White: “A simple example [of additional functionality] would be, someone opens an app, opens some secure information, copies some information, and emails it to someone. We can defend against those kinds of things and prevent it from happening.”

The hope is that the engine can be used by organizations with reason to control the flow of their information; not only military or more traditionally cybersecurity-aware bodies, but also hospitals and or other civilian organizations dealing with sensitive information. Looks like Google has found a potential new market for Android devices after all.

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[via TPM]

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.