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Android Cellphones Sci-Fi Security

Motorola Adopting 3 Laws of Robotics For Android? 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-killing-humans dept.
jfruhlinger writes "Android's popularity is growing, but its lack of enterprise security features is making IT departments pull their hair out. Two of the biggest Android vendors, Motorola and Samsung, aren't waiting for Google, but are building their own security functionality into the devices they sell. Motorola's version will be facilitated by their purchase of 3LM, an Android-centric mobile security provider that bases their strategy on Asimov's Three Laws or Robotics, though the order is tweaked: The device must protect the user, protect itself, and obey the user, in that order."
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Motorola Adopting 3 Laws of Robotics For Android?

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  • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday February 14, 2011 @07:19PM (#35204484) Homepage Journal

    Well, it was fun while it lasted. The 'peoples' phone: RIP. 2011

    • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Monday February 14, 2011 @07:33PM (#35204604) Journal

      The 'peoples' phone: RIP. 2011

      Yup. I though the same thing as soon as I saw "protect itself, and obey the user, in that order"; I'm assuming that rooting, tethering and other unauthorised usage are going to to feature on the list of things that the phone needs to 'protect itself' from. The fact that Motorola, the guys behind that whole 'eFuse' piece of crap, are involved pretty much seals the deal.

      • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Monday February 14, 2011 @07:43PM (#35204694)

        I would prefer that if I so ask it, the device will obey me even at my peril or its own.

        Sometimes human beings have to die, just a little, for something really spectacular to happen.

        • I would prefer that if I so ask it, the device will obey me even at my peril or its own.

          If they are really true to Asimov's laws they'll also need to implement the zeroth law which was to protect humanity from harm even if that meant not protecting one or more humans from harm. Preventing users trying new innovative and sometimes crazy ideas with their hardware is arguably harmful to humanity as a whole. However it is also possibly harmful to their bottom line so I expect this one of the laws will get conveniently forgotten.

          • by Samah (729132)

            If they are really true to Asimov's laws they'll also need to implement the zeroth law which was to protect humanity from harm even if that meant not protecting one or more humans from harm.

            I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

          • I don't remember a "zeroth law" in the book.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        I'm assuming that rooting, tethering and other unauthorised usage are going to to feature on the list of things that the phone needs to 'protect itself' from.

        As this is about business users, what do you expect? If you're given a company car you aren't generally allowed to install a tuned race engine, open pipes and a one zillion watt sound system taking up the back seats and boot.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Zeroth law - thou must protect the content, AKA: DRM
    • Missed that whole "Enterprise security" and "IT departments pulling their hair out" bit did you? Users are stupid. (Not all of them, all the time, but enough of them, enough of the time.) When you are stupid and risk your own data, it is a learning experience. When you do the same at the office, it is a slashdot story. For a personal phone, yes this sucks. From a company standpoint, Thank You!
      • by morcego (260031)

        As an IT security person, I applaud Motorola's initiative. As soon as I see it hitting the market, I will review and probably start recommending it to my customers.

        As the owner of a rooted Motorola Android phone, my next one will probably from a different brand.
        The main reason I rooted my phone was to use OpenVPN on it. Which is a security tool.

        I wonder if that level of irony can be unhealthy...

        • by icebike (68054)

          Well that level of irony can be unhealthy for your company's checkbook.

          Now users will be in a position to demand a company phone for company work rather than just using their own.

          That's fine if your company is willing to pay the expense.

          • by morcego (260031)

            Company phone is not any more unusual than company notebook these days, specially for people who need external access to the network.

            Actually, for many cases, I can see the old desktop+notebook combo being replaced by desktop+smartphone. I've have heard often enough about people asking for a notebook for use during meetings and presentations. I for one stopped doing that and only use my phone these days. 99% of the time my notebook is sitting quietly in my desk (besides my desktop).

    • by skyride (1436439)
      Well it is only 3rd party hardware vendors involved, I doubt google will be getting involved any time soon.
    • by Nialin (570647)
      Agreed. Also, I'm killing the first person to name their device "Cutie".
  • Can I eat the device's battery?

    Logic bombed.

  • by davecb (6526) <davec-b@rogers.com> on Monday February 14, 2011 @07:22PM (#35204514) Homepage Journal

    ... to allow for an interesting development of a series of stories that culminate in unexpected consequences. have a read, and then ask yourself what the bugs are in the restatement.

    Hint: the bug is now the highest priority.

    --dave

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Even as a kid I thought these three laws were a bit goofy and were clearly just a plot device. As an adult engineer I see that these are really just the "three design requirements of robotics".

    • Not so (Score:4, Insightful)

      by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @12:05AM (#35206346)

      The laws are not "intentionally wrong". In fact, as Asimov himself pointed out, the three laws are basically common sense for any tool. It should have safeguards to protect the user, it should accomplish what the user wants, and it should be durable. Most machinery has interlocks (first law), can be tinkered with (second law), and shouldn't smash itself to bits unless the user screws up (third law).

      In fact, the laws are so reasonable and obvious that they needed to be twisted into bizarre contortions (e.g. Runaround), flat out ignored (e.g. Little Lost Robot), or overridden with the Zeroeth Law , in order to achieve most of Asimov's best stories.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        There are many flaws with the three laws.

        What happens when a robot thinks the owners life would be 'harmed'* if the owner tinkers with it?

        *what does that mean? is there an extent? This si the real flaw, many words are up to interpetation. Sure, the extreme are easy but the middle ground is where most of use live.

  • The Zeroth Law (Score:5, Informative)

    by Yeknomaguh (1681980) on Monday February 14, 2011 @07:25PM (#35204544)
    Of course, it won't be until much later that the zeroth law of phone security is discovered. That being: "The device may not harm the corporation, or, by inaction, allow the corporation to come to harm."
    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      Judge: Corporation, you're liquidated!
      [zeroth law vanishes]
      Android: Thank you.

      • The Android in question, and indeed, all androids built with this directive would do everything in their power to prevent the corporation from liquidation. Failing at that, they would self destruct from the logical error that results.
    • I think that's actually the fourth law, or rather, the fourth directive.
    • It will be discovered that there is a secret fourth Directive which prevents the device from arresting any senior executive of Motorola Inc.
    • Asimov's "zeroth law" was to " protect humanity -
      but regardless of that the " thress laws" are already perverted here in order to "protect the corporation".
      Asimov's 3 lawas where : Protect humans; 2) OBEY humans; 3) Protectself.

      "Protect self" here is a cheap excuse for DRM - protecting the corp. and harming humans.

      Re-ordering the laws is just an Orwelian sadistic twist.

  • Wrong order. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheCarp (96830) <[ten.tenaprac] [ta] [cjs]> on Monday February 14, 2011 @07:26PM (#35204550) Homepage

    I love my Android but, its no surprise that the maker would prioritize protection above obedience. I would change the order:
    1. Obey the authorized user (esp since he is normally the OWNER)
    2. Protect the authorized user.
    3. Protect itself.

    Different orders can be considered when they become self aware. Until then, its a tool damnit. My hammer doesn't try to protect me, nor would I want it to. A safety on a gun may "protect me" but, the device definitely obeys before protects, because all the user needs to do is turn off the safety, and all protection is gone.

    As the user/owner of a non-self aware device, it should obey me, even if my intention is to use it to destroy itself, or others.

    • As the user/owner of a non-self aware device, it should obey me, even if my intention is to use it to destroy itself, or others.

      The problem is that this is the situation we already have. Our machines obey us, even if we have been socially engineered to instruct our machines to perform tasks that are malicious. A zombie PC damages itself, its owner, other machines, and their owners.

      This application of the mythical "Three Laws" seems designed to protect us from ourselves.

      Now, this is going to annoy the livi

      • by robot256 (1635039)

        This application of the mythical "Three Laws" seems designed to protect us from ourselves.

        The idea that we must create machines to protect us from ourselves is both morally repugnant and logically consistent. Every tool we create is designed to correct some inadequacy of humans, whether it is our inability to crack coconuts, smelt steel, or transmit information without assistance. Making a machine to confer sound judgment onto otherwise clueless people is a logical extension of that, which is why the Three Laws (in original form or others) are at once compelling fiction and impending reality.

      • by mcvos (645701)

        As the user/owner of a non-self aware device, it should obey me, even if my intention is to use it to destroy itself, or others.

        The problem is that this is the situation we already have. Our machines obey us,

        No they don't. My phone doesn't obey me, it obeys its manufacturer (Motorola). And that sucks, because Motorola doesn't care about it. And because it doesn't obey me, I can't get it to update to a somewhat recent version of Android.

    • I would change the order:
      1. Obey the authorized user (esp since he is normally the OWNER)
      2. Protect the authorized user.
      3. Protect itself.

      I would change it slightly differently:
        1. Obey the authorized user if, after (non-verbosely but with option of expanded explanation) warning him of issues with laws 2 or 3, he says he really means it.
        2. Protect the authorized user.
        3. Protect itself.
        4. Obey the authorized user.

      • I would change the order:
        1. Obey the authorized user (esp since he is normally the OWNER)
        2. Protect the authorized user.
        3. Protect itself.

        I would change it slightly differently:

        1. Obey the authorized user if, after (non-verbosely but with option of expanded explanation) warning him of issues with laws 2 or 3, he says he really means it.

        2. Protect the authorized user.

        3. Protect itself.

        4. Obey the authorized user.*

        *Only if said action occurs on a device without an active cellular network connection or with a cell network where the action does not potentially harm the network or any other users of the network.

    • by alvinrod (889928)
      While that's great for you and I, the average user is probably at least leaning against the idiot fence, if not straddling it, and is likely to do something stupid. Look at the number of malware infested PCs. It's not always the users fault, but if they download and click on NataliePortmanHotGritsXXX.jpeg.exe and the device obeys them, there's only so much that can be done. Normally I wouldn't care too much, but these devices store contact information and have network connections. I definitely don't want sp
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        The whole point is they will not be able to install a custom rom. Look at the droid X it still cannot boot a custom kernel, it must kexec into one.

        This is motorola extending that.

      • It's not always the users fault, but if they download and click on NataliePortmanHotGritsXXX.jpeg.exe and the device obeys them, there's only so much that can be done.

        Here's the question that doesn't get asked nearly often enough: Why should running an .exe automatically hand over complete control of the device to it on a silver platter?

        The ability to run programs with limited privileges has existed in microcomputers since 1982. (Yes, the Intel 80286 with "protected mode".) But OS programmers have completel

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          1. android binaries are not called .exe
          2. android has permissions limitiations, when an app is installed you have to ok the permissions is it going to get. What needs to be added is the ability to still run the app with only some of the permissions approved. This would however mean that ad supported apps would be useless as the user would never allow them to access the network.

          • by alvinrod (889928)
            Even if you were to clearly spell out the malicious crap that an application is going to do, some people won't bother to read it or won't understand and will keep clicking until the application is installed. People who are completely incapable or unwilling to act responsibly shouldn't be given absolute freedom in cases where their careless actions could cause harm to others.
          • by mlts (1038732) *

            Android also has a VM, where even if there was a flaw in the OS that would allow something to get root, it would have to get out of the VM. Since the Dalvik VM is constantly updated by Google, with bugs fixed quite quickly, it would take an attacker a significant time to find a hole to get out of the VM.

            After getting out of the VM and able to execute Linux system calls directly, there is getting out of the user mode. This can be trivial, or it can be quite difficult, depending on device.

            Because Android ha

    • The order is designed to protect users from themselves. Many phone owners will try to do harm to themselves and the phone through stupidity, ignorance, or impatience. Those same people will complain and cause the handset manufacturer and carrier lots of problems when the expected outcome of dangerous activities is achieved. What people think they want doesn't always jive with how much they like the outcome.

      While there is a place for advanced tools for advanced users, the majority of users aren't advan
    • I hate to bust your bubble, but saying "1. Obey the authorized user (esp since he is normally the OWNER)" is wrong for security. This is about security.

      The fact of the matter is that social engineering is far simpler than hacking in almost all circumstances. And people are ***EXCEEDINGLY*** careless with their mobile phones. How many people don't have their PC, which sits in their locked house, remember forms data/passwords, but have a stupid app on their phone that shoots straight to all of their email

      • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Tuesday February 15, 2011 @12:16AM (#35206426) Journal

        I hate to bust your bubble, but saying "1. Obey the authorized user (esp since he is normally the OWNER)" is wrong for security. This is about security.

        Rather that the "you cannot do that" security paradigm how about trying a new one: "the easiest way to do something should be a secure way to do it"? The problem with the "you cannot do that" paradigm is that invariably you can actually do it with enough hacking, which is rarely secure, and once that happens the method to do it spreads because lots of people want it.

        • by julesh (229690)

          Bingo. To take an example from physical security, if the door to my house refused to let me into the house if it believed I was likely to damage the house (which it might think I would if I were blind drunk), then when I go out, I'll leave the door propped open so it can't lock me out.

          A security tool that is too hard to use gets ignored. Tools that try to second-guess their users are hard to use.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        why sell power user devices to people you'd regard as low iq users?
        well, that's not what motorola actually wants, it wants to sell the devices in big bulk number to operator and then have that operator basically rent/finance the phones to the phone users, that is USERS, not owners.

        however every time a mobile related company has brought in tech to protect the user, it has always been about making the user not able to send forward software(files) from the phone. for drm and operator sales ambitions.

    • by westlake (615356)

      Different orders can be considered when they become self aware. Until then, its a tool damnit. My hammer doesn't try to protect me, nor would I want it to.

      But many tools do try to protect you.

      Which is why industrial and craft workers in the 21st Century tend to keep all their fingers and toes.

      As the user/owner of a non-self aware device, it should obey me, even if my intention is to use it to destroy itself, or others.

      Those in harm's way are free to disagree.

      It may be because I was raised in an environment where the phone, the car, the truck, the electricity and the tractor had to work - and work for everyone, all the time, an environment where death was never very far away.

      But something permanently soured me on the notion that the phone is a toy and the network my personal pla

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        I would submit that there is a big difference between being designed for safe operation to protect the user from an accident, and preventing the user from making a decision.

        My circular saw has a guard that gets pushed back as it glides over the cutting surface, and snaps back when it finishes. This prevents all sorts of errors and injures that could occur accidentally.

        That same saw, has a handle on the guard, such that I can grab it with my hand and pull it out of the way, should I decide that, in this situ

  • They are going to get rooted anyway,and also, Motorola is known for looooooooooong release cycles for patches so it will stay that way.
  • "The device must protect the user, protect itself, and obey the user, in that order."
    In that order? Really? So, if you try to upgrade your phone, your existing phone will (in accordance with "protect itself") attempt to sabotage your purchase? "I'm sorry, Dave. I can't let you do that."
    • by mcvos (645701)

      Exactly. That's what Motorola phones do. You can't upgrade their OS. Only Motorola can.

  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Monday February 14, 2011 @07:35PM (#35204624) Journal
    Protect the user,"Ok, you can't do drugs, avoid paying car insurance, speed in your car, or bring a diet pepsi on a plane"
    Protect itself: Self explanitory
    Obey the user except when the user wants to do something that can cause harm to the user.
    • Obey the user except when the user wants to do something...

      Fixed that for you.

    • funny you mention drugs. motorola does piss tests on ALL employees (even contractors!).

      when a division of motorola was being sold (several months ago) they forced ALL employees to go do a piss test, right then and there. no one was allowed to refuse - this was AFTER people were already hired, there and in their jobs for months or even years.

      pretty evil corp. no individual freedoms on your own time. they own your ass.

      its not just the evil DRM they build in; but the company is pretty evil down to the core

  • Was not one of the inherit flaws with the Three Laws, that it brings up the issue of whether robots are treated as thinking tools or mechanical people?

    Maybe it's hard to personify a 4-inch rectangle of glass and plastic, but at a certain point could we be asking an intelligent being (of circuits) to sacrifice itself at our whims of hackery? Could bricking a device be considered murder?

    Clearly, Motorola is on the forefront of robot rights.

    • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Monday February 14, 2011 @07:46PM (#35204710)

      I have always followed a rule for programming or hardware chicanery:

      If it asks me to stop, I stop.

      So far, so good.

    • The Three Laws stories, as I recall, explored interactions between the "three laws" themselves, and situations where obeying them led to contradictions. In particular, the R. Daneel Olivar stories questioned, "how do you determine whether a person is a (sufficiently advanced) robot following these directives, or simply a Good human being.

      The question "is bricking a device considered murder", it brings many of the other staples of AI science fiction: if you activate a backup of an AI, is it a separate being

  • Stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vadim_t (324782) on Monday February 14, 2011 @07:37PM (#35204646) Homepage

    Everybody remembers the famous 3 Laws of Robotics.

    Nobody seems to remember that the stories were about how they failed over and over due to unintended consequences and and loopholes, for example robots are able to break them if they don't know they're doing so.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by maxwell demon (590494)

      User: (tries to call his girl friend)
      Phone: I can't let you call this number. I'm designed to keep damage from you. My integrated medical devices noticed changes in your cardiovascular system when you call this number. Your pulse and blood pressure increase. High blood pressure is a well known risk factor for heart deceases and apoplectic stroke. I have to conclude that calling this number cannot be good for your health.

  • Isn't the whole idea with Google making it open source that manufacturers will contribute their own improvements to the main release? Or contribute cash for Google to allocate more programmers onto the features they would like? Instead they seem to be whining that Google isn't working on the free product they benefit from fast enough, then going off in their own direction creating proprietary code for themself which just messes up the whole open source idea.
  • if (protect the user obey user)
          return -1; // segfault?

    Yep, we're doomed :)

    Actually, until Android's are solar/nuclear powered, there's nothing to worry (cringes).

  • Another fine product by Omni Consumer Products.

    I'd buy that for a dollar

  • This from the company who encumbers Android with Blur? Keeping the user's social network username and password on and accessing said services Moto's servers instead of from the phone itself is not what I consider "protecting the user."

    I love my Droid, but I will not be buying another Moto Android phone if they keep loading it up with Blur and locking down the bootloader.

    • I still want to know what they're doing with all their users' data that passes through their servers. I'm having trouble believing that they just ignore it when they can mine it (even anonymized) for information to sell.
  • In Robocop is was: "any attempt to arrest a senior OCP employee results in shutdown". I wonder what Motorola execs get, free calls?
  • As the blurb says, this is about "Enterprise security features". Ergo, this is not about protecting the user. It is about protecting the corporation that gave the user the phone.

    Their three laws are just the usual sugar coated spin to help the medicine go down. To make that obvious just re-word the law with enterprise substituted appropriately: The device must protect the enterprise, protect itself, and obey the user, in that order. And of course it should. Presumably the enterprise is paying for the p

  • It'll be interesting to see if the interactions between real life and the 3 laws of robotics will generate paradoxal situations that result in phones freezing or behaving in odd manners - and if the engineers will have to refer to Asimov's short stories to untangle them.
  • the three laws where flawed. It's the damn reason there is a story in the books. Stop using them, and stop thinking they solve any real problems.

    gah.

  • Don't forget the MOST important one:
    0) An Android Phone may not, through action or inaction, harm Motoroloa Mobility Corporation's bottom line

    I'm pretty sure they'll substitute "consumer" for "human" in the other laws, too.

    Not that "MOTOBLUR" and the use-prevention chips that Motorola has been using to lock down and effectively retain partial ownership of their customer's devices has given me a cynical opinion of Motorola (and other similar companies) or anything...

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