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Android Cellphones Privacy Your Rights Online

CarrierIQ: Most Phones Ship With "Rootkit" 447

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the your-keystrokes-may-be-monitored-for-qa-purposes dept.
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.
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CarrierIQ: Most Phones Ship With "Rootkit"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @11:57AM (#38073924)

    It doesn't matter because Android is open.

    That's all that matters.

    • Re:Doesn't Matter (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @11:59AM (#38073970)
      In open source, the user can do whatever he or she wants with the software.
      In proprietary software, it's the other way around.
      • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:03PM (#38074016) Homepage Journal

        in soviet software land, software programs you!

      • Re:Doesn't Matter (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:14PM (#38074182) Journal

        I think the GPs point is that, in this case, the latter can also be true for open source software.

        • Re:Doesn't Matter (Score:5, Insightful)

          by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @01:15PM (#38075054) Homepage Journal

          Or maybe his point was that, if Android was really open such things would be easy to fix.

        • Re:Doesn't Matter (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @01:31PM (#38075274) Homepage Journal

          What Marcos said. Android is not "open source". It's "kinda sorta open to downstream proprietors, but not to end users", which is not open source at all.

          I'm one who likes a lot of what Google does, but I'm no blind fanboi. Google dropped the ball when they permitted downstream customers to close their source. And, that's why I'm using a "dumb phone"*, with no plans to upgrade. I'm not about to pay the phone company hundreds of dollars, PLUS an exorbitant contract fee, so that they can spy on me.

          * It should be noted that even old "dumb phones" are pretty easy to spy on, albeit to a lesser extent than is exposed in this and other recent articles.

          • Re:Doesn't Matter (Score:5, Informative)

            by gauauu (649169) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @01:37PM (#38075362)

            What Marcos said. Android is not "open source". It's "kinda sorta open to downstream proprietors, but not to end users", which is not open source at all.

            Well, it's not "free" according to GPLv3 (android devices can be Tivo'ised preventing you from running modified code), but anyone can download the android source and modify and rebuild it. If your device supports it (many do), you can run your modified code on your device. I'm not sure how you can say Android isn't open source, as that's pretty much the definition of open-source.

            Now you could argue that it's not "free" as defined by RMS and the FSF, and you'd have a decent argument. But claiming it's not open source is just incorrect.

            • And the number of people capable of doing a brain transplant on an Android phone is probably in the 10,000s. Millions and millions of people are vulnerable and there isn't much they can do about it other than taking a hammer to the phone.

              • Re:Doesn't Matter (Score:4, Informative)

                by lindi (634828) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @03:01PM (#38076404)
                cyanogenmod claims to have 745,259 users currently. I am not sure if it is completely free or not but clearly more than 10000 users are using unofficial and modified version.
            • Re:Doesn't Matter (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Drakino (10965) <d_slashdot@miUML ... .net minus punct> on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @02:37PM (#38076074) Journal

              Only parts of Android are open source. Other parts, including key infrastructure pieces and the majority of apps people use that ship on the devices are closed.

              And open source here is a license that doesn't require Google to disclose the source when shipping, leading to every Android Honeycomb tablet that shipped this year being a closed platform until this week.

              Google has severely muddied the meaning of open and open source compared to what we are used to from the GPL and Linux worlds.

              Never let your hatred of Apple, Microsoft or whoever to cloud your judgement of the companies you do cling to. Google's "open" message is eerily similar to FUD messages Microsoft was spreading in the 90s when it came to Java and "open computing". The quicker we hold these companies accountable, the quicker it improves. Getting stuck in fanboy wars and putting on the blinders helps no one.

              • by Nemyst (1383049)

                Android is open source. That non-essential applications using the platform are not is unrelated to the subject at hand. If you can run Android in a functional manner without the closed-source applications installed, then Android is by definition open source.

                That's like saying Linux isn't open source because it can have proprietary drivers.

                • by Drakino (10965)

                  If you want to nit pick meanings, fine, though to get stuck doing so misses the larger picture. To most people, Android means a phone, running Google's Android OS, and Google's Android applications such as the marketplace, Gmail, Maps, etc. The marketplace, maps, Gmail and other common apps that come with every Google Android certified device are not open.

                  The reason I make a distinction between open and closed here is that yes, on Linux, almost the entire stack is open, from the proper Linux kernel, to th

            • by kruhft (323362)

              That's the first thing I did when I got my Nexus S. Wiped it, built Android and installed it. Then I was quite sure I had a clean phone.

          • Re:Doesn't Matter (Score:4, Insightful)

            by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:19PM (#38079238) Homepage Journal

            Google dropped the ball when they permitted downstream customers to close their source

            And if they hadn't, no manufacturer would have adopted it.

    • Re:Doesn't Matter (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WorBlux (1751716) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:03PM (#38074014)
      But many of the drivers and first stage bootloaders aren't
    • Yup. And anyone who runs android can get a rom with CiQ stripped from it.
    • Re:Doesn't Matter (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nevermore94 (789194) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:57PM (#38080410)

      You are right. It doesn't matter. I am not a tinfoil hat wearer because I am a Computer Systems Engineer and Network Administrator and I know how much data they can gather from you if they want to and have pretty much just stopped caring. They don't need any special app hidden on your phone to spy on you. They could record every single URL that you visit from their server end. Unless you are taking some extraordinary measures on your phone like running through proxies (which can then log everything you do themselves) or Tor they can already track all of your online activity. Does this make something like CIQ right, hell no, and I have already verified that my Android phone doesn't contain it. But, it also doesn't mean that I have any allusions that every URL I visit isn't being recorded somewhere. I just don't care because I don't do anything on my phone that I wouldn't want the world to know about anyway. That is why burner phones were invented ;-)

      PS, if you want an interesting look into which Android apps are tracking you when you use them, check out the app:
      Addons Detector

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @11:58AM (#38073950)

    With a walled garden, Apple keeps the carriers out too.

    • by Pieroxy (222434) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:05PM (#38074056) Homepage

      With a walled garden, Apple keeps the carriers out too.

      Yes, walled gardens have pros and cons. This is definitely a pro in my book.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tr3vin (1220548)
        Unless, of course, those walls have security cameras mounted on them.
      • by Microlith (54737)

        A walled garden would not have prevented this.

        Google or the device vendors selling directly to end users and not being forced to route through the carriers probably would have.

        • A walled garden would not have prevented this.

          How do you you figure that?

          The case in point is obviously Apple. They do not do an end-run around the providers as you advocate for. Yet there is no such software on any iPhone.

          The carriers will screw with whoever they can. You have to stand up to them; Apple did, and Google never even tried.

    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:08PM (#38074096) Homepage
      This is the best thing that the iPhone has done for the cell phone industry. Apple doesn't bow down and let the carrier load whatever crap they want to on the phone. This makes the iPhone a much better experience, because an iPhone from Verizon is exactly the same as an iPhone from AT&T and it exactly the same as an iPhone you purchase directly from Apple. The only difference is that the carrier specific phones have been locked to that provider, but that's acceptable since you're getting the phone at a huge discount. I wish more handset makes, especially the big ones (HTC, Motorola, Nokia) would do the same to offer their customers a much better and more consistent experience.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Kazin (3499)

        Right, you're ok with Apple spying on you but not AT&T or Verizon? Fascinating.

      • by sribe (304414) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:20PM (#38074294)

        ...but that's acceptable since you're getting the phone at a huge discount.

        I don't even believe that. As long as you continue to pay your contract, you should be able to unlock the phone.

        • by nurb432 (527695)

          I don't even believe that. As long as you continue to pay your contract, you should be able to unlock the phone.

          Until you have paid off the subsidy its not really your phone. You are on in effect a 'lease to own' contract.

    • by strech (167037) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:49PM (#38074708)

      And you're sure of this why?
      And from geek.com (http://www.geek.com/articles/mobile/how-much-of-your-phone-is-yours-20111115/):

      Currently, Trevor has found CarrierIQ in a number of Sprint phones, including HTC and Samsung Android devices. CarrierIQ is confirmed to be found on the iPhone or on feature phones, but Trevor has found RIM’s Blackberry handsets and several Nokia devices with CarrierIQ on board as well.

      This may just be a terribly worded sentence and CarrierIQ isn't on the iPhone (and I can't find any other cites), but even if this specific software isn't there, that doesn't mean other software that does the same thing under the excuse of "improving the network" isn't. Further, "Apple doesn't engage in abuse <x>" is a bullshit excuse for other problems.

      • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @01:35PM (#38075326)

        Article is a load of crap, they give no details on how they know its there. They show screenshots of 2 android phones with visible GUIs which show CIQ, and then claim its on iPhone and Blackberry as well. Sorry, Ive dug through all the servicebooks on several blackberries (8250, 9600, 7200) and Ive never seen a CIQ service book.

        And as for this statement...

        According to TrevE, the software is installed as a rootkit software in the RAM of devices where it resides. This software basically is completely hidden from view and in it virtually invisible,

        Someone doesnt understand the volatile nature of RAM, or is terrible at communicating. Rootkits dont reside in RAM, because then they would be removable with a battery removal. As for "completely hidden", why then does he have screenshots of a CIQ GUI where theres a "disable CIQ" checkbox?

        The credibility factor of this story is in the negatives, especially when they really dont explain what their proof is and they have one guy on a forum claiming this-- its not even a researcher with a known real name. Who says this isnt a massive troll?

  • Cyanogen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tsingi (870990) <graham DOT rick AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @11:59AM (#38073960)

    Nice.

    Buy a phone you can root and put CyanogenMod on it. It works great!

  • I assumed people allready knew this. I mean phone companies know who, where, when, and for how long you call anyone, you would have to be pretty naive to belive that they arent tracking your web useage just as closely.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      you would have to be pretty naive to belive that they arent tracking your web useage just as closely.

      In fact, they are also doing things in such a way as to cost you more money on your data plan.

      A bunch of years ago, a co-worker was trying to figure out why the ability to directly go to an URL from his cell phone wasn't working as it was described in the manual.

      It turns out the carrier (Rogers/AT&T) had tweaked the settings so that *every* request you did more or less went through one of their servers.

    • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gstrickler (920733) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @01:26PM (#38075188)

      There is a HUGE difference between knowing who you call or what websites you visit (available from network info) and knowing which apps you're using or monitoring your key strokes. The latter is none of their business, and key logging can allow them to access your passwords. That's completely inappropriate and probably a crime.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:30PM (#38074432) Homepage
    that should get asked about the article
    does cyanogenmod mitigate this threat? if not how about whispercore? could whisper systems in the future detect and correct this
    rootkit?
    can rootkit detection systems presently available in linux detect and successfully help a hacker to remove the rootkit?
    • by Andy Dodd (701) <[atd7] [at] [cornell.edu]> on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @01:47PM (#38075470) Homepage

      Cyanogenmod does not have CIQ in the first place.

      It is also possible, with a LOT of work, to remove CIQ's hooks from the system using baksmali/smali (basically, a disassembler/assembler for Java).

      Unfortunately, the developers on XDA who put forth NoCIQ mods seem to be considering this their "special sauce" to set themselves apart and get some donations - when asked where to look for hooks on a device they don't support, you get nothing but silence. No guides, even high-level ones oriented towards developers.

      • by toadlife (301863)

        I have a ROM for the Epic4G with Carrier IQ removed. The first person who figured out how to remove CarrierIQ, posted the fixed jar files for all ROM developers to use.

        I think the part of the reason why some of these mods don't come with guides is because they involve modifying those smali files, of which the stricture tends to very wildly from device to device.

        Since I have tons of other mods on my ROM that affect the same files that CarrierIQ removal affects, I had to kang the changes by decompiling the st

  • Samsung Vibrant (Score:5, Informative)

    by oakgrove (845019) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:39PM (#38074538)
    When I rooted my Vibrant and stripped out CIQ, the performance went through the roof. Logging every single thing a user does takes a toll apparently.
    • Re:Samsung Vibrant (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @01:02PM (#38074896) Homepage

      When I rooted my Vibrant and stripped out CIQ, the performance went through the roof. Logging every single thing a user does takes a toll apparently.

      And, I'm betting it's the users paying for the data plan usage that sends this stuff.

      So, you're paying extra to be snooped on. I highly doubt they exclude this data from what they charge you.

  • by NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:40PM (#38074560)
    Those who can, do. It has always been true with technology. As we get older and see more of the effects, we are more aware, more affected. Privacy has been shrinking along with the open terrain since the Garden of Eden (metaphorically speaking). In 100 years, the privacy issues will extend into our subconscious minds. This seems inevitable as much as it seems disturbing. I guess that is why we grow old and die.
  • 2 Questions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @12:50PM (#38074726)

    1) How can you authoritatively determine the android phone you are about to buy doesn't have Carrier IQ installed, BEFORE you buy it?

    2) If you already have an android phone, (how) can you check for and uninstall Carrier IQ?

  • RMS was right (Score:5, Informative)

    by SigmundFloyd (994648) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @01:24PM (#38075140)

    Stallman [slashdot.org] doesn't sound so crazy now...

  • by ross.w (87751) <rwonderley@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:52PM (#38080364) Journal
    I have a Samsung Galaxy SII with the current Australian firmware. Based on the information at http://forum.xda-developers.com/showpost.php?p=11763089 [xda-developers.com] CIQ is not installed. I don't know if the standard Samsung firmware as supplied is the same, but it's one of the things I like about my carrier, Virgin. Their phones really are. With Optus or Telstra YMMV.
  • by jonwil (467024) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @10:05PM (#38081626)

    Yes the Nokia N900 has a pile of closed-source packages. But if it WAS running this CarrierIQ crap (which it isn't because its a product direct from Nokia and has never been tainted by any carrier) I could just open up an xterm and type "apt-get remove carrieriq" and get rid of it.

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