Haven turns old Android phones into privacy-respecting home security systems

Haven is a free application for Google's Android operating system that turns any Android device into a privacy-respecting home security system endorsed by Edward Snowden, the Guardian Project and Freedom of the Press Foundation.

The use of electronic gadgets in home security is growing, and while you may sleep better knowing that your property is monitored by security systems, there is always the underlying issue of privacy.

Since these devices can record audio and video among other things usually, you may have a nagging feeling in your gut that there is a chance that the recordings or streams fall into the wrong hands. If you don't want to risk that a video of your naked self lands on the Internet, or that data is used by companies for marketing or advertisement, you need to make sure that your privacy is respected.

Haven: Android home security system

haven android home security

Haven is not the first application that turns old computer systems or mobile devices into home security systems, but it may very well be the best for users who want security and privacy.

The basic idea of Haven is simple: turn any Android powered device into a home security appliance, and use the device's sensors for that task. Unlike many other home security systems, Haven keeps things local and with a strong focus on privacy. Haven records only when things happen and not continuously, and will save the data to the local device and not a server somewhere in the cloud.

Haven works by placing Android devices with Haven running on them in locations that you want to monitor. Place them in your hotel room, living room, entrance, or bed room, and have any disturbance recognized and recorded by Haven.

Haven is open source furthermore so that you can go through the code to make sure nothing fishy is going on, that there are no security issues, and to build the app instead of installing a compiled one.

Haven uses the following sensors in the current version:

  • Accelerometer: phone’s motion and vibration
  • Camera: motion in the phone’s visible surroundings from front or back camera
  • Microphone: noises in the environment
  • Light: change in light from ambient light sensor
  • Power: detect

There needs to be a link between your main Android device and the Android devices that you use for monitoring. While it seems possible to use Haven powered devices without that link, you'd lose functionality such as getting notifications when events are recorded by one of the devices.

Haven can be configured to send sound clips and photos to your main device. You do need to link the phone number however, but Haven uses the secure Signal protocol that uses end-to-end encryption to protect the data against snooping third-parties. Users who want even more security can use the Tor network for that.

You are asked to set thresholds for audio and movement, and need to do some testing to reduce false positive alerts. The monitoring picks up pretty much any noise by default, for instance street noise or noise from a fridge, and if you don't want to get alerts whenever one of your pets strolls through a room, you need to adjust the movement monitoring as well.

Closing Words

Haven requires at least one Android device that you use for monitoring. You can pick up a cheap Android burner device, as you don't need lots of functionality other than what is already built-in anyway in Android devices. The configuration is simple, but you need to do some testing to avoid that you get hundreds of false positives per day.

The location you put the monitoring device in is probably the most difficult decision that you have to make. It should not be too obvious, as it can be picked up by any intruder then easily, but needs to be placed in a location that has a good view of the place you want monitored (provided that you want to take pictures).


This article was first seen on ComTek's "TekBits" Technology News


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