Haven Open Source App Transforms Your Old Android Smartphone into a Smart Security Camera

About two years ago, I wrote a post asking what to do with old devices instead of throwing them away. My own proposals included giving them away, reselling them on eBay, recycling them for other purpose like servers or download clients, or scavenging some parts. Other people also comments what they did with theirs, for example setting up a Linux cluster with old TV boxes.

Another way to recycling an old (Android) smartphone – albeit you could always buy an inexpensive one – is to install and run Haven, an open source app that transforms your phone into some sort of smart security camera, but instead of only using the camera from the phone, the app also logs audio events using its microphone (array), as well as data reported by sensors.

Click to Enlarge

One of you first reaction might be: “cool! somebody may an app that would allow hackers or government to make spying on your ever easier”. But actually, the app was initially intended to protect journalists against raids, or more exactly record their occurrence (as proof), and is released by the Guardian Project that aims to “create secure apps, and open-source software libraries that can be used around the world by any person looking to protect their communications and personal data from unjust intrusion, interception and monitoring”.  Haven can also be used to monitor anything you care about, or even as a baby monitor for instance.

While audio and video is continuously monitored, the app only logs the data inside the phone if “thresholds” are exceeded (e.g. motion sensing, audio level…). If you decide to enable notifications, it does not transform your smartphone into another IoT device that relies on the cloud, but instead leverages Signal secure communication app, and the Tor network via Orbot app. A SIM card is not needed, unless you plan to use the optional (and less secure) SMS options.

Commercial Products vs Haven – Click to Enlarge

The app only runs in Android, but iPhone users can still receive notifications via Signal + Tor, they’d just need to buy a cheap Android phone acting as the “camera”. You may want to check out the presentation slides for a quick overview, and visit the app page for more details.

The app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store, F-Droid, or as an apk, and the source code can be cloned from Github.

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3 Replies to “Haven Open Source App Transforms Your Old Android Smartphone into a Smart Security Camera”

  1. Thank you so much for writing about this. I’ve been looking for something like this for a while. The fact Guardian project is behind it is really encouraging 🙂 (though they dont seem to update their apps once they’re “finished” – everything on FDroid is >1 year old). I’m going to have to test it more late, but on my main phone (Redmi 3S) it seems to run at an incredibly low frame rate (1-2 fps) but maybe that’s just for the initial motion detection – after which it’s faster

    Do you know how it sends a Signal message without a phone number? Aren’t Signal accounts tied to phone numbers? Is it just relayed through a server of theirs? I’m asking bc if an account isn’t necessary, I think it’d be very handy to add Signal notifications to other applications – for instance from a VPS

  2. @geokon
    Not sure about the exact way, but that’s what their announcement says exactly:

    Better than SMS, however, is the integrated support for sending fully end-to-end encrypted notifications, with photo and audio attachments, over Signal. This method allows you to use a device without a SIM card, or in airplane mode, since Signal utilizes the internet for communication, not the mobile operator network.

    Some other websites have instructions showing how to use Signal without SIM card, but it requires some other services. For example: https://medium.com/@Love4aviation/signal-app-without-sim-how-to-a6c8fa38f88

  3. what surprised me and is missing from the text above:

    “Snowden, who exposed the National Security Agency’s intrusions of privacy by spying on private phone calls, is the President of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which released Haven in conjunction with the Guardian Project”

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