Sandia’s David Fritz holds two Android smartphones, representing the virtual network of 300,000 such devices that he and other researchers are using to advance understanding of malicious computer networks on the Internet. (Photo by Dino Vournas)

As part of ongoing research to help prevent and mitigate disruptions to computer networks on the Internet, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in California have turned their attention to smartphones and other hand-held computing devices.

Sandia cyber researchers linked together 300,000 virtual hand-held computing devices running the Android operating system so they can study large networks of smartphones and find ways to make them more reliable and secure. Android dominates the smartphone industry and runs on a range of computing gadgets.

The work is expected to result in a software tool that will allow others in the cyber research community to model similar environments and study the behaviors of smartphone networks. Ultimately, the tool will enable the computing industry to better protect hand-held devices from malicious intent.

The project builds on the success of earlier work in which Sandia focused on virtual Linux and Windows desktop systems. “Smartphones are now ubiquitous and used as general-purpose computing devices as much as desktop or laptop computers,” said Sandia’s David Fritz. “But even though they are easy targets, no one appears to be studying them at the scale we’re attempting.”

The Android project, dubbed MegaDroid, is expected to help researchers at Sandia and elsewhere who struggle to understand large scale networks. Soon, Sandia expects to complete a sophisticated demonstration of the MegaDroid project that could be presented to potential industry or government collaborators.

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