The controversy over stealthy monitoring software by CarrierIQ has raised important questions about user privacy and business ethics in the Brave New World of smart phones, tablets and the like. In the uproar over CarrierIQ’s surreptitious monitoring of mobile phone users, various tools have appeared that claim to be able to detect the software. However – removing CarrierIQ from your phone is another matter entirely. And,while some sites have offered instructions on doing so, Kaspersky Lab researcher Tim Armstrong said that, for all but a few mobile phone hardware experts, doing a CarrierIQ-pendectomy is a bad idea.
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As the situation involving Carrier IQ continues to evolve and users become more aware of the software and its capabilities, a couple of tools designed to detect the application’s presence on mobile devices have emerged.
The researchers who last week said they had succeeded in jailbreaking the RIM PlayBook tablet have now posted a detailed walkthrough of how users can accomplish the same task on their own. The technique requires the use of a custom tool, but otherwise is fairly straightforward.
Security researchers who have investigated the inner workings of the Carrier IQ software and its capabilities say that the application has some powerful, and potentially worrisome capabilities, but that as it’s currently deployed by carriers it doesn’t have the ability to record SMS messages, phone calls or keystrokes. However, the researchers note that there is still potential for abuse of the information that’s being gathered, whether by the carriers themselves or third parties who can access the data legitimately or through a compromise of a device.
The half life of the CarrierIQ “rootkit” scandal proved to be a little more than a week. That’s about how long it took for Trevor Eckhart, a young, Connecticut-based Android developer to begin raising questions about some stealth software he discovered running on Android phones by HTC and speculation in the media and online to run rampant about what kinds of spying said software might be engaged in. It was time enough for CarrierIQ to issue a lawyer letter threatening to sue the Eckhart and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to come to his defense and even for Congress to get involved – each of which ensured even more news cycles would be taken up with the mini-controversy. And it was time, at long last, for more information to become available about what was really going on with CarrierIQs software, and for cooler heads to prevail on both sides. The question, now, is why incidents like this provoke our anger so – and what we can do to stop them from happening again.
The ongoing controversy about Carrier IQ’s software has now entered the courts.
Many of the apps that come pre-installed on a variety of Android devices from manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung, Google and others have access to more services and capabilities on the devices than they should or that users are aware they have, according to new research. These “capability leaks” can sometimes be inherited from other apps, but the researchers say that they constitute significant security weaknesses on the Android devices.
The fallout from the controversy surrounding the presence of Carrier IQ’s software on millions of mobile devices on several different platforms has now reached Washington. Sen. Al Franken on Thursday sent a letter to the company, demanding answers to a series of questions about the software and its capabilities, and saying that the data that Carrier IQ collects “may violate federal privacy laws”.
A group of researchers is claiming that they’ve found a root exploit that enables them to jailbreak the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet made by Research In Motion. In a video demonstration of the jailbreak, one of the researchers shows off the ability to change the settings on a PlayBook and says that he also has the ability to install the Android Market app on the tablet.
Security researcher Trevor Eckhart discovered that many Android devices come pre-loaded with a piece of software made by Carrier IQ. In this video, he demonstrates how the software works and what it’s capable of monitoring. It’s since been revealed that versions of the app may have been on other devices, but likely don’t log users’ actions but provide analytical information for the carriers.