Military scientists devise surveillance malware to track surroundings in 3D

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Tool could hide within seemingly harmless camera app.

Naval Surface Warfare Center scientists have created a malicious mobile app that takes control of a phone and snaps random photos that are stitched together to reconstruct someone’s surroundings in 3D, Technology Review reports.

The tool, called PlaceRaider, was created as an app for a smartphone on the Android 2.3 operating system.  The creators envision that it would be tucked within another seemingly harmless camera app that the user would download.

The team, led by engineer Robert Templeman, is capitalizing on an Android vulnerability that allows pictures to be taken remotely. “Through completely opportunistic use of the camera on the phone and other sensors, PlaceRaider constructs rich, three dimensional models of indoor environments,” according to a research summary

“Remote burglars can thus download the physical space, study the environment carefully and steal virtual objects from the environment,” they said. That could include credit card numbers, anything on your computer screen and other incriminating information.