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NSA constructs hardened Android, unleashes it on world

Vicious apps squashed by super-spook mobile OS

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The US Defense Department's The National Security Agency (NSA) has released a security-hardened version of Google's mobile OS, Android.

The spook-enhanced build of the operating system was released last week and is based on SELinux, also created by the National Security Agency. The inaugural release of the SE Android project focuses on limiting the scope for malicious or flawed apps to cause mischief, as explained in the project documentation:

Security Enhanced (SE) Android is a project to identify and address critical gaps in the security of Android. Initially, the SE Android project is enabling the use of SELinux in Android in order to limit the damage that can be done by flawed or malicious apps and in order to enforce separation guarantees between apps. However, the scope of the SE Android project is not limited to SELinux.

Links to SE Android source code and instructions on putting it together can be found on the project's web page. The focus of the project is on damage limitation rather than prevention. The target audience of the project is clearly mobile developers, security experts or perhaps device manufacturers, and not regular Android smartphone users looking for a little extra privacy and security.

App support is low and if you don't know what you are doing you might even end up with a bricked smartphone. The goals of the SE Android were first publicly outlined during a presentation [PDF] at last year's Linux Security Summit. ®

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