An anonymous reader writes: You may recall a company called CarrierIQ from when it angered tech-savvy internet users four years ago. They developed software that allowed explicit monitoring of anything happening on a cell phone, down to individual keystrokes. It was pre-installed on millions of phones at the time, and Carrier iQ unsuccessfully tried to silence the researchers working to uncover it. As the article notes, the company and its software "became synonymous with creepy, unseen monitoring of everything that you do on a smartphone on behalf of carriers and phone makers." Well, it seems they never really recovered. Carrier iQ seems to have evaporated. The bad news is that they sold most of their assets to AT&T, and handed off some employees as well. AT&T says they've continued to use Carrier iQ's software over the past few years to "improve the customer's network and wireless service experience."
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MrSeb writes "Lawmakers in Washington have turned their sights on mobile device tracking, proposing legislation aimed at making it much harder for companies to track you without consent. The Mobile Device Privacy Act (PDF) makes it illegal for companies to monitor device users without their expressed consent. The bill was introduced Thursday by Massachusetts Democrat Representative Edward Markey, co-Chair of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus. Much of the impetus for the bill came from last year's Carrier IQ debacle, where it emerged that the company's software was found to exist on both iOS and Android devices on AT&T and Sprint's networks. While the company denied any wrongdoing, the software captured keystrokes and sent the details of your device usage back to the carriers. If passed, the legislation would require the disclosure of including tracking software at the time of the purchase of the phone, or during ownership if a software update or app would add such software to the device, and the consumer gains the right to refuse to be tracked. This disclosure must include what types of information is collected, who it is transmitted to, and how it will be used."
Trailrunner7 writes, quoting Threat Post: "Carrier IQ, a startup heavily bruised last fall by harsh criticism of its handset diagnostic software, today announced it's hired a high-profile lawyer as its Chief Privacy Officer. Magnolia Mansourkia Mobley, a CIPP and former Verizon executive, will be tasked with quickly broadening the company's focus on consumer privacy. She also was named the company's General Counsel. The company became the flashpoint in a heated controversy after initial reports its analytics software, embedded in some 150 mobile phones, was capable of gathering a great deal of personal data without the customer's consent."
Happy New Year! It's that time (as of now!) for the UK, and since the Slashdot backend operates in Greenwich Mean Time, that seems as good a reason as any to welcome 2012 now instead of local midnight for any of the various U.S. time zones. Everyone has a different take on how to rank the events of the last year; read on below for a few notes on some of the goings on of the past 31,536,000 seconds (give or take). The list is pretty arbitrary, drawn from the thousand-ish stories that hit the Slashdot page in that time; please say in the comments what news hit you the hardest this year.
A few weeks ago you asked security guru Moxie Marlinspike about all manner of security issues, being searched at the border, and how to come up with a good online name. He's graciously answered a number of your inquiries which you will find below.
New submitter realized writes "Yesterday Carrier IQ released a report (PDF) which tries to answer some questions about how their system operates. Also, after reports of the FBI using Carrier IQ data, the company responded by saying, 'Carrier IQ has never provided any data to the FBI. If approached by a law enforcement agency, we would refer them to the network operators.' Additionally, the EFF just released a report which says they believe keystroke data 'is in fact being inadvertently transmitted to some third parties,' but they would like to study carrier profiles to verify information." Reader Trailrunner7 adds that Carrier IQ's report indicates "under some limited circumstances its software will log the contents of SMS messages sent to a user's phone, but that that the contents of those messages would not be human readable. Instead, they would be in an encoded form that could not be decoded without special software and the carriers don't have access to the contents of the messages either. The company said it has worked on a fix for the bug, which affected devices running the embedded version of the Carrier IQ agent."
Trailrunner7 writes "Security researchers who have investigated the inner workings of the Carrier IQ software and its capabilities say the application has some powerful, and potentially worrisome capabilities, but 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 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. Jon Oberheide, a security researcher who has done a lot of work on Android devices, also analyzed several versions of the Carrier IQ software and found the software has the ability to record some information, but that doesn't mean it's actually doing so. That part is up to each individual carrier. However, he says the ability to collect such data is a dangerous thing. 'There is a lot of capability to collect sensitive data, which is dangerous in any scenario,' Oberheide said in an interview. 'It's up to the carriers to use the software as they choose, but you could sort of put some blame on Carrier IQ. But they put it on the carriers.'" For those who don't want to trust in the good will of Carrier IQ or carriers themselves, here are a couple ways to get it off your phone.
alphadogg writes "A Cornell University professor is calling the controversial Carrier IQ smartphone software revelations a privacy disaster. 'This is my worst nightmare,' says Stephen Wicker, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell. 'As a professor who studies electronic security, this is everything that I have been working against for the last 10 years. It is an utterly appalling invasion of privacy with immense potential for manipulation and privacy theft that requires immediate federal intervention.'" Read on for a grab-bag of other news about the ongoing story of Carrier IQ's spyware.
Token_Internet_Girl writes with a followup to last week's news about Android developer Trevor Eckhart, who was researching software from CarrierIQ, installed on millions of cellphones, that secretly logged a variety of user information — from button presses to text message contents to browsing data. CarrierIQ tried to silence Eckhart, but later backtracked. Now, Eckhart has posted a video demonstration of CarrierIQ's logging software. From the article: "The company denies its software logs keystrokes. Eckhart’s 17-minute video clearly undercuts that claim. ... The video shows the software logging Eckhart's online search of 'hello world.' That's despite Eckhart using the HTTPS version of Google, which is supposed to hide searches from those who would want to spy by intercepting the traffic between a user and Google. ...the video shows the software logging each number as Eckhart fingers the dialer. 'Every button you press in the dialer before you call,' he says on the video, 'it already gets sent off to the IQ application.'"
symbolset writes "Update from an earlier story here, where Carrier IQ was pursuing a security researcher for pointing out privacy issues in an application alleged to track and record the activities of smartphone users. The company has relented, and retracted their Cease and Desist letter. In their press release [PDF] they say: 'As of today, we are withdrawing our cease and desist letter to Mr. Trevor Eckhart. We have reached out to Mr. Eckhart and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to apologize. Our action was misguided and we are deeply sorry for any concern or trouble that our letter may have caused Mr. Eckhart. We sincerely appreciate and respect EFF's work on his behalf, and share their commitment to protecting free speech in a rapidly changing technological world.' Notch another win for the Streisand effect."
phaedrus5001 sends this quote from a story at Wired: "A data-logging software company is seeking to squash an Android developer's critical research into its software that is secretly installed on millions of phones, but Trevor Eckhart is refusing to publicly apologize for his research and remove the company's training manuals from his website. Though the software is installed on millions of Android, Blackberry and Nokia phones, Carrier IQ was virtually unknown until the 25-year-old Eckhart analyzed its workings, recently revealing that the software secretly chronicles a user's phone experience, from its apps, battery life and texts. Some carriers prevent users who actually find the software from controlling what information is sent." The EFF is hosting PDFs of CarrierIQ's C&D letter, as well as their response on Eckhart's behalf.
First time accepted submitter Kompressor writes "According to a developer on the XDA forums, TrevE, many Android, Nokia, and BlackBerry smartphones have software called Carrier IQ that allows your carrier full access into your handset, including keylogging, which apps have been run, URLs that have been loaded in the browser, etc." Since this was submitted, a few more details have come to light. The software was designed to give carriers useful feedback on aggregate usage patterns, but the software runs as root and the privacy implications are pretty severe.