Boeing To Create Its Own Android Smartphone
April 13, 2012

Boeing To Create Its Own Android Smartphone

Brett Smith for

Aerospace and defense contractor Boeing is planning to release its own Android smartphone later this year, according to a report by the National Defense Magazine.

The phone will be a high-security device designed primarily for military and government use and will not be mass marketed to consumers, according to the magazine. Many expect the phone to have intense security measures, including encryption, biometric access and physical locks.

Some commercial phone makers are currently looking at features like biometric sensors for other purposes besides security. Chip maker NXP, biometrics hardware vendor AuthenTec and phone maker DeviceFidelity have announced they are working together to enable subscribers to verify mobile phone payments with fingerprint biometrics.

Brian Palma, vice president of Boeing´s secure infrastructure group, told National Defense that Boeing was aiming to launch the device in late 2012 and will be priced similar to other secure phones that typically cost between $15,000 and $20,000. He also said people may come to the Boeing phone from different places.

“We believe that there is significant interest in the defense side as well as the intelligence side and in the commercial world as well,” Palma said.

Roger Krone, president of Boeing Network and Space Systems, said Android was chosen because it will provide access to popular consumer apps while maintaining security. The company is also likely conscious of the notion that in many regards mainstream consumer IT products have outpaced technology at the office, and they might not be as inclined to see an Android “work” phone as a downgrade to their personal device.

“We are all living off this thing,” Krone said while holding up his smartphone. “And we´re not going back. In fact the next one I have is going to be thinner, smaller and have more capability.”

The decision to use the “open source” Android operating system for the Boeing phone might seem ironic considering its mild reputation for susceptibility to malware and other security issues.

Last June, The Register reported on security concerns surrounding long-standing “kernel vulnerabilities” that were supposedly fixed with the release of Android OS 2.2. The problem was that at the time over 90 percent of users had yet to update their operating system. According to Google´s April 2012 statistics, almost 7 percent of Android subscribers are still using vulnerable operating systems.

Security company Norton has long warned of the weakness Android has for malicious Trojan horse attacks. Those warning were justified this week when SophosLabs reported a Trojan horse security threat posing as the popular Angry Birds Space game. The malware-infected editions were found at unofficial app vendors and not through Google Play. In the article for SophosLabs, Graham Cluely writes, “it feels like we have to keep reminding Android users to be on their guard against malware risks.”

Researchers at NQ Mobile and North Carolina University issued a different Android malware warning this week.  The malware, dubbed Tigerbot, has also been found circulating in non-official Android channels and listens for commands through SMS messages. NQ said that TigerBot can records calls, alter network settings, report its current GPS coordinates, upload images, kill other processes, and reboot the phone.