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Posts Tagged ‘Sprint Nextel’

Breaking: First Known Detection of Carrier IQ in Italy

December 12, 2011 2 comments

Update December 13: Carrier IQ issued an updated statement, new concerns for an endless saga…

I am proud to post here the first known detection in Italy of the infamous Carrier IQ software!

As you will probably know, everything started on Nov. 28, on the other side of the Atlantic, when Trevor Eckhart, an Android developer posted a video on YouTube showing the hidden software Carrier IQ interacting oddly with his mobile phone activity. Eckhart subsequently alleged his keystrokes and data were being collected without his permission.

Easily Predictable, speculation and accusations have immediately begun, concerning the kind of data collected by Carrier IQ and presumably transmitted to Wireless Mobile Operators: as a matter of fact subsequent investigations have shown that the Carrier IQ software is embedded on nearly every mobile phone and operator, at least in the U.S where concerns of consumer privacy led Massachusetts congressman Rep. Edward Markey to ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the company over concerns of consumer privacy.

But although many believed the software was logging keystrokes and collecting sensitive data, a subsequent more reasonable analysis carried on reversing the code, has shown a different scenario: the software “only” collects anonymized metrics data, although there are hooks inside the code to events such as keystrokes, possibly suggesting the implementation of this kind of functionality for future versions. Essentially the analysis confirmed the content of a statement by the company which attempted to clarify how information was being collected:

We measure and summarize performance of the device to assist Operators in delivering better service.
While a few individuals have identified that there is a great deal of information available to the Carrier IQ software inside the handset, our software does not record, store or transmit the contents of SMS messages, email, photographs, audio or video. For example, we understand whether an SMS was sent accurately, but do not record or transmit the content of the SMS. We know which applications are draining your battery, but do not capture the screen.

Nevertheless, since the clarifications did not mitigate the fact that Carrier IQ is s a potential risk to user privacy, and users may not choose to to disable it, As a consequence a bunch of Class Actions lawsuits have been filed against the main handset manufacturers and carriers including, besides the obvious Carrier IQ, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA, HTC, Apple, Samsung, and Motorola Mobility.

Of course European regulators could not remain indifferent, and started immediately to  investigate Carrier IQ. Germany’s Bavarian State Authority for Data Protection was the first to contact Apple, which publicly declared to have included Carrier IQ in earlier version of iOS, with support ceased with iOS 5 and completely removed for previous versions in future software updates. The German Example has immediately been followed not only by other  regulators in the U.K., France, Ireland and Italy, but also from organizations like BEUC, the European Consumers’ Organisation that defend the users’ right to be told how their data is used.

I was wondering if Europe’s concerns were exaggerated (since so far the scandal seemed to be contained in the U.S.) until a friend of mine decided to test one of the available Carrier IQ detection tools on his Samsung Galaxy Tab, which was purchased from 3, an Italian Mobile Operator belonging to the H3G Giant.

Of course the results are shown above: the tool detected the Carrier IQ software in an inactive state. The bad thing is that, although apparently inactive, my friend told me he was not able to remove the software following the different procedures available on the web even if he did not spend so much time in its removal. So far I can only show the screenshot but he told me he will give me his device for a deep analaysis (with caution since it is his work device).

Thinking at this strange encounter, I admit I could not help but think to Samsung’s official statement concerning Carrier IQ (and reported by Engadget):

Some Samsung mobile phones do include Carrier IQ, but it’s very important to note that it’s up to the carrier to request that Samsung include that software on devices. One other important point is that Samsung does not receive any consumer user information from the phones that are equipped with Carrier IQ.

Since it is up to the carrier to request the software to be included on Samsung devices, I presume that 3 could have decided to install it on all the devices for the Italian Market. I tested the tool on My HTC Desire and Sensation XE (both belonging to Telecom Italia Mobile) with no result.

Francesco Pizzetti, Italy’s Protection of Personal Data Guarantor will have a lot to do… meanwhile he opened an investigation into how Carrier IQ works and is checking Italian mobile phones to verify where the software is in use.

Mobile devices are more and more becoming inseparable companions for our personal and professional life, and deadly enemies for our privacy…

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Phonarchy in the U.K.

July 15, 2011 1 comment

It looks like that the Perfidious Albion is not what one should exactly define a Paradise for Mobile Security. Not only the echoes of the Scandal concerning “voicemail hacking” led the infamous tabloid News Of the World to close on Sunday, the 10th of July 2011, and Rebekah Brooks to resign as CEO of News International today; but also the flow of events has unexpectedly brought mobile security issues to the attention of a wider audience, no more confined to the sole and exclusive attention of information security professionals.

This is partially due to the relative easiness in implementing similar hacking techniques in mobile communications, which is raising doubts and misgivings in many other countries. As a matter of fact, as actually happened, voicemail hacking is relatively easy to implement and is based, as usual, on two factors:

  • From the user perspective, on the poor attention for default (in)security settings;
  • From the operator perspective, on the necessary trade-off between security, user experience, and convenience, (almost) always favoring the latter, which turns out not to be an optimal choice from a security perspective.

A lethal mix wich may be quite easily exploited by a balanced blend made of (little) hacking and (a lot of) social engineering. At this link a really complete and interesting description very helpful to understand how relatively easy is to perform voicemail hacking with some U.K. operators (but keep in mind that procedures vary from Operator to Operator). Accorrding to the above quoted article, in theory, it is possible to elude the meshes of the security procedures of the operators, simply calling the voicemail of the victim impersonating the legitimate user, claiming to have forgotten the PIN and voila, that’s it!

Voicemail hacking does not need further components, but unfortunately is not the only issue that may happen: in theory entire conversations may be hijacked (and unfortunately it is something we are quite familiar to, here in Italy). The Security Process of a phone conversations is an end-to-end chain, inside which technology is only a component, and the human factor is the weakest link. In this context weak means leak so that often it happens that some information that should not be disclosed are delivered to media (even if irrelevant to any ongoing investigations) with devastating aftermaths for investigations themselves and for victims’ privacy.

The scenario is further complicated with the new generation of smartphones, where technology (and the ongoing process of Consumerization of Information Technology) leaves virtually no limits to the imagination of attackers: not only voicemail hacking, but also mobile malware (a threat which does not need the unintended cooperation of the Operator) capable of extracting any information from devices. The dramatic events in U.K. involved using stolen data for squalid journalistic purposes, but, since mobile devices are nowadays indispensable companions of our everyday lives, nothing prevents, in theory, to use the same or different methods to steal other kinds of information such as confidential data, banking transaction identifiers, etc… Do you really need a confirm? For instance the recent evolution of the Infamous ZiTMo mobile malware that has just landed on Android (the continuing metamorphosis of this malware is really meaningful: born on the Windows platform, it has rapidly spread on Windows CE, Symbian, and now, last but not least, Android). Since it is expected that 5.6% of iPhones/Android handsets is going to be infected in the next 12 months, there is much to worry. In this context what happened in U.K. may constitute a dangerous precedent and a dramatic source of inspiration for organized cybercrime.

Fears that similar occurrences could happen in other countries are rapidly spreading. As a consequence some countries are moving fast to prevent them.

In the U.S., in wake of U.K. Hacking, Representative Mary Bono Mack, a California Republican who chairs the House subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade, is contacting handset manufacturer companies including Apple, Google, Research in Motion, and wireless companies as well, such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, to determine if there are any vulnerabilities in cell phones or mobile devices which can be exploited by criminals and other unscrupulous individuals. Clearly the final target is to prevent similar events from ever happening in the United States.

For the Chronicle, on June 13 Bono Mack released draft legislation which aims to tighten data security for companies victims of data breaches. Under the proposal, companies that experience a breach that exposes consumer data would have 48 hours to contact law enforcement agencies and begin assessing the potential damage.

Immediately after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is considering investigation into News Corp. for the same reson.

Anyway U.S. is not the only country worried about, as similar concerns are raising in Canada, and I may easily imagine that other countries will soon deal the same stuff.

A final curious notice: a further confirm that U.K. is not the paradise for mobile security came this morning when I stumbled upon this wiki which happily shows how to hack a Vodafone femto cell (just released to public) in order to, among the other things, intercept traffic, perform call frauds (place calls or send SMS on on behalf of somebody else SIM card).

The best (or the worst, it depends on the points of view) is yet to come…

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