MegaDroid: 300000 smartphones to study the problems of cellular networks

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in California have built a network of 300 000 smartphone based on different versions of the Android operating system in order to study the interactions between these devices simulating a situation of network attack. The information from this study will enable other researchers to simulate and study similar environment for a better understanding of the underlying dynamics networks of smartphones.

MegaDroid to study the problems of cellular networks

The Sandia Laboratories researcher David Fritz said: “Smartphones are now everywhere and are used as devices for general-purpose computing systems such as desktop and notebook PCs. But although they are fair game, it seems that no one is studying the subject to the same extent that we are preparing ourselves.”

The project is called MegaDroid and requires, as said, the construction of a network of smartphones isolated from the outside world and from other networks of the laboratory. In order, however, to simulate as much as possible a so-called “real-world” researchers provide GPS coordinates to each device random monitoring their virtual positioning on Google StreetView.

John Floren, Sandia labs scientist, commented: “you can’t defend against something you don’t know. There are multiple nodes in a network, more information is available for researchers. Sandia researcher’s work represents a significant starting point for others to understand and limit the damage from network failures caused by technical problems, accidents, natural disasters or deliberate acts.

The researchers hope in this way to be able to study more closely the possible domino effects that may result from a technical problem on the network – whether intentional or not – or what might happen in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. The scenarios that will be explored will be obviously the spread of malware, which is facilitated by modern smartphones by the large number of features of wireless communications such as WiFi and Bluetooth. Other areas of study will include tracking and stealing data and the actual effectiveness of the methods of information protection.

John Floren, Sandia Laboratories scientist, said: “You can not defend against something you do not know. More nodes are in a network, the more information is available for researchers. This work of researchers at Sandia is a significant starting point for other realities in order to understand and limit the damage caused by the malfunction of the network from technical problems, accidents, natural disasters or malicious acts.”

Researchers at Sandia have intention of releasing the virtual environment and the discoveries made with it in open source form. “The tools are useful if they are used,” said Fritz, referring to the release of information and testing tools. You add the comment Kevin Vanderveen, head of Scalable and Secure Systems Research Laboratories Sandia: “This research can be extended to other platforms than Android. IOS, for example, can benefit from our findings and toolkit that we are developing”.

Sandia Laboratories have already conducted similar research in the past: in 2009, a project was launched Megatux, with a million Linux virtual machines, and later was also set up the project MegaWin to study, in the same way, a network operating system Windows.

Sandia National Laboratories is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin and operates under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and responsibility in research and development for technologies related to national security, energy and environment.


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