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Sandia Lab Fires Up 300,000 Virtual Android Devices To Test Out Security

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the go-big-or-go-home dept.

Android 39

coondoggie writes "Researchers with the Sandia National Laboratory have tied together 300,000 virtual Android-based devices in an effort to study the security and reliability of large smartphone networks. The Android project, dubbed MegaDroid, is carefully insulated from other networks at the Labs and the outside world, but can be built up into a realistic computing environment, the researchers stated."

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Reminds me... (5, Funny)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a year ago | (#41532211)

That reminds me of this [xkcd.com] .

Re:Reminds me... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#41532339)

I wonder if anyone has actually put that together in real-life. It would be pretty cool...

Virtual Android devices? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41532331)

I am familiar with emulation of hardware, and some techniques used to implement hardware emulation in software... I know just enough to know that emulation of hardware is extremely difficult, and more often than not it's a performance killer. Eg, bsnes [slashdot.org] is my favorite SNES emulator because of its accuracy, however it requires a more powerful host machine because of this.

What is a "virtual android device", and running side by side a "real android device" is there any notable performance deficiencies?

Re:Virtual Android devices? (4, Interesting)

JackCroww (733340) | about a year ago | (#41532365)

Sandia Labs has the #82 supercomputer in the world, and use that computing power to simulate nuclear explosions and ,IIRC, large meteor strikes (Tunguska I think). They probably have the horsepower to handle this.

Re:Virtual Android devices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41532419)

They also probably compiled android with native instructions for whatever beast they have there, at that scale small performance improvements per unit probably equal massive dollars, heat and watts.

Re:Virtual Android devices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41532455)

Sandia Labs has the #82 supercomputer in the world, and use that computing power to simulate nuclear explosions and ,IIRC, large meteor strikes (Tunguska I think). They probably have the horsepower to handle this.

The question wasn't whether or not Sandia has the power to do it. What is a "virtual android device" and how does its software compare to a "real android device"?

Re:Virtual Android devices? (1, Funny)

stephanruby (542433) | about 2 years ago | (#41533067)

Sandia Labs has the #82 supercomputer in the world, and use that computing power to simulate nuclear explosions and ,IIRC, large meteor strikes (Tunguska I think). They probably have the horsepower to handle this.

That's only because they're running Android headless.

Ask them to run the emulators again with the emulator windows opened and the layouts fully inflated with decent-sized emulated screens, and the supercomputer that could simulate a million nuclear explosions in a few microseconds will be on its knees and non-responding after having spinned off just 2 or 3 instances.

Re:Virtual Android devices? (1)

Digi-John (692918) | about 2 years ago | (#41533773)

Actually, each virtual machine has a VNC session running. And they run on 520 desktops with i7 processors and 12 GB of RAM each.

Re:Virtual Android devices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41537667)

#82 is retired (http://www.hpcwire.com/hpcwire/2012-06-13/red_storm_passes.html). However, #39 and #15 are still going strong.

Re:Virtual Android devices? (1)

shri (17709) | about 2 years ago | (#41533557)

The Android emulator [android.com] runs on a number of platforms. I suspect ( like someone else who has mentioned this in this thread ), that they have a stripped down version which runs without the GUI.

Re:Virtual Android devices? (1)

Digi-John (692918) | about 2 years ago | (#41533795)

A "virtual android device" is an instance of Android-x86 running in a KVM virtual machine, which takes advantage of hardware virtualization instructions to give better performance. You could take the same software and install it on a desktop PC, assuming Android-x86 includes the appropriate drivers.

Re:Virtual Android devices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41534055)

What is a "virtual android device"

The plethora of inexpensive, yet powerful wondertablets that exist only in the minds of marketing execs.

Wow, the most I've ever done was 48 (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#41532347)

I once installed 48 Android-x86 virtual machines on an ESXi box just to see if I could do it.

300... that must have been fun.

Re:Wow, the most I've ever done was 48 (1)

_4rp4n3t (1617415) | about 2 years ago | (#41534317)

That's 300,000...

Re:Wow, the most I've ever done was 48 (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 2 years ago | (#41536129)

Yeah I know. I didn't realize until after I posted that I my "K" didn't take...

And, of course Slashdot is still stuck in 1997 and doesn't have a facility for editing posts like EVERY OTHER FUCKING ONLINE FORUM ON THE GODDAMN PLANET DOES.

Re:Wow, the most I've ever done was 48 (1)

PuZZleDucK (2478702) | about 2 years ago | (#41534559)

Haha... my PC started cr$##ing itself at about 9 virtual android devices... and they were mostly 'sitting idle'.

hard to fix? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41532363)

“You can’t possibly read through 15 million lines of code and understand every possible interaction between all these devices and the network.”
Hey, this sounds like security through obscurity to me.
Maybe this is the year for the linux desktop.

Probably not all that great (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41532397)

I'm going to bet that the overall android security picture is going to be "not all that good". Not because android is inherently insecure, but because it's a non-trivial piece of network connected software that does not really come under much security scrutiny. (Likewise, iOS will suffer from the same problems)

Android has other security disadvantages.
Your typical android device is made from commodity parts supported by myster-binary-blob drivers of dubious quality. Neither the drivers or the OS see frequent, if any updates in a device's average lifetime. The devices are designed to be as cheap as possible to design and make. We all know that security is often neglected in a scenario like this.

Not that android doesn't have a solid security model, but if your device does have a flaw it's more often than not you're just out of luck. Sure, android will get patched - but if your phone even does get an update you may not see it until a year later. iOS has the upper hand here because Apple can and does push out security updates across all of their supported devices.

Re:Probably not all that great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41532785)

Bull-shill-shit.

Clusters (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#41532427)

...Is it still cool to make Beowolf jokes here? /ducks

Re:Clusters (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 2 years ago | (#41536153)

What the hell is a "Beowolf?"

Re:Clusters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41536627)

Maybe _Beowolf_ is the mobile or virtual version of Beowulf.

Re:Clusters (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#41541111)

You don't know what a beowolf cluster is? What are you doing at slashdot?

Here's a hint: Google and Wikipedia are your friends.

Re:Clusters (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 2 years ago | (#41541423)

No, I have no idea what a "Beowolf cluster" is. I tried your Google search, and found tons of results for a similarly-named "Beowulf cluster," which I am already quite familiar with.

But, not much on a "Beowolf cluster."

Sorry.

Re:Clusters (1)

Digi-John (692918) | about 2 years ago | (#41543039)

I don't know what a Beowolf cluster is either. I am, however, familiar with Beowulf clusters, an overly fancy name for "a bunch of commodity computers running MPI". MegaDroid is not a Beowulf cluster, nor does it run on a Beowulf cluster.

Obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41532789)

Imagine a BEOWULF cluster of these??? Oh, wait.

self-aware... (1)

UnanimousCoward (9841) | about 2 years ago | (#41532805)

Insert the customary SkyNet/Borg comment here...

Re:self-aware... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 2 years ago | (#41532833)

Insert the customary SkyNet/Borg comment here...

Relax. Only Android devices modded with CyanogenMod can actually kill.

Re:self-aware... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#41540529)

As a cyborg I take exeption to that! Damned cybists... If you'd talked of Asians or blacks like that you'd get your ass handed to you.

I refuse to apologize for the fact that I'm not 100% human or 100% natural. My cybernetic implant makes me superior to you... well, at least the human part that was replaced by a machine, anyway. And, there's a good chance your grandparents are cyborgs, and a better chance that you will be assimilated as well. MWAHAHAHA!!!

(Yes, I just coined another new word.)

What if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41532995)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of MegaDroids!!!!

Obligatory Question (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | about 2 years ago | (#41533217)

Did they use rope?

Or as True Geeks did they do it properly and use Duct Tape.

Or , perhaps, they used Duck Tape [duckbrand.com] - because the world is full of idiots who cannot spell, even in massive highly technical research labs.

Re:Obligatory Question (1)

partyguerrilla (1597357) | about 2 years ago | (#41534467)

They're virtual devices, they clearly used virtual duct tape.

Some security test... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41533501)

If it's not connected to the internet then what's the point?

Activations (1)

SJ (13711) | about 2 years ago | (#41534477)

...and no doubt Google will count each instance as an activation...

300,000 Androids (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41534645)

... enough to scare Isaac Asimov out of writing "I Robot" ... on the other hand, "Your tax dollars at work" ... and at least they are thoughtful enough not to try this on a public network. The thought of a massive cellular service meltdown in New Mexico should scare someone out there.

what's the point? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#41534947)

megawin, megatux, megadroid...

what's the point? isn't all they're doing running sw they know already? isn't that quite pointless when the malware they're installing needs to be installed? it's just a playground for them, what benefits does it offer over from running 100 instances?

what's the point of feeding them gps data - to see if some malware is rigged to phone home at specific coords or wtf?

300 000 activations in a heartbeat (2)

Lussarn (105276) | about 2 years ago | (#41535461)

Not bad Google!

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