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Researchers Say Carrier IQ Isn't Logging Data, Texts 130

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-our-pitchforks-are-all-polished-and-sharpened dept.
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.
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Researchers Say Carrier IQ Isn't Logging Data, Texts

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  • 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.

    Can our learned friend Jon elaborate as to whether this is legal under US law? Let him say it is, instead of trying to dampen the outrage surrounding this whole issue. I say this because a further below, he opines by saying the following:

    "...the ability to

    • by TimeOut42 (314783)

      Go to jail over what? Nobody has really proved anything. Driving a car is dangerous under any scenario; someone should go to jail over this!

      Bottom line, knee jerk report about stuff showing up in the logcat; research done. I didn't see anyone listening on the wire to see what was actually being sent, how it was being sent or give Carrier IQ and the carriers a chance to explain. It was just people with pitchforks and torches.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Luckyo (1726890)

      Why does someone "have to go to jail"? Will it fix something? Or is will tickle your sadistic fetish?

      We don't live in times when lynching the first black guy who crosses the path of lynch mob was the right way to get justice for rape done by your neighbor, and that's exactly what you're asking for here.

      People signed the contract that allowed them to do this. There are no laws that were broken. You and your neighbors elected people who decided that there was nothing illegal about this, as long as they were u

      • by erroneus (253617) on Monday December 05, 2011 @08:40PM (#38274666) Homepage

        Actually, the trend of late is to use customers as additional products for sale often without the consent of the customers who are being [ab]used. It may take some doing to get law to reflect the moral problems of this sort of thing, but you can bet if the kind of data they are collecting on others was collected on the perpetrators and made public, it might make a few of them a bit upset to the point to taking legal action. No one want this done to them and especially not the ones doing it. So the morality of all this is certainly not in question. Now we just need some "do unto others" put into law.

        Someone needs to go to jail to stop the avalanche of "me-too-ism" on this gold rush to exploit consumers.

      • You and your neighbors elected people

        But what if you didn't?

        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          Then you didn't use your right to vote, or didn't push your opinion around to convince more people that this is wrong, so why are you complaining now? It's with your silent acceptance that they made the laws.

          • Not that I'm against trying to convince other people to vote your way, but that likely isn't realistic for a few people to do in one (or even a few) elections. I think there's a point when you've done enough, and it's hard for me to blame them for poor politicians.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:55PM (#38274164)
    Something that's been bugging me lately is the recent trend of URLs that are optimized for SEO.

    Here are three random articles from the front page of Slashdot, Reuters, and TheStreet.com:

    Once upon a time, the important part of the URL - the identifier of 2225202 [slashdot.org] at Slashdot, idUSTRE7B019B20111205 [reuters.com] at Reuters, and 11332765 [thestreet.com] at TheStreet - was all that a potential URL-logger got to see. URLs were not only shorter, they had meaning relevant only to that one particular site's CMS, and it required Yahoo/Google/Bing/government-sized resources to follow every such link and map URLs to content on scales as big as "everyone who uses the WWW".

    Except that nowadays, most URLs are rewritten with-redundant-text-for-SEO-purposes. Slashdot's URLs say researchers-say-carrier-iq-isnt-logging-data-texts [slashdot.org] Reuters' URLs say us-russia-election [reuters.com] and TheStreet's URL says its-official-facebook-buys-gowalla-team.html [thestreet.com].

    All of a sudden, if I have access to the URL stream, I can now figure out that you're interested in Carrier IQ's spyware, the Russian elections, and whatever Facebook is up to this week -- with nothing more complicated than "grep".

    I'm not advocating tinfoil haberdashery: there's no grand conspiracy of webmasters to make clickstreams greppable. It's merely a regrettable (for end user privacy) side effect of the relentless push towards SEO that organizations like Carrier IQ can get a lot more "interesting" information out of a user's clickstream than they would have been able to do as recently as two years ago.

      • by discord5 (798235)

        And here I was wondering what he was up to lately...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Mod parent up. I didn't know the text after the article id was arbitrary and ignored.

        http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/12/05/2225202/I-hate-wikileaks-and-am-a-loyal-patriot

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday December 05, 2011 @08:39PM (#38274658) Homepage

      The descriptive URLs are also more useful for situations where you might be seeing the URL on its own, such as in a message from a friend. A message saying "go check out story 2225202 on Slashdot" is unlikely to get someone's attention, but an address mentioning a specific issue might. In a link to an article on an unknown blog, descriptive words can inspire enough confidence to view the article, rather than lead to the expectation that the mess of numbers to be an obfuscation hiding our dear friend Goatse.

      The trend may indeed have its roots in SEO, but I, for one, like it.

      • by Shadowhawk (30195)
        This, especially more so in social media where descriptions of the subject of the link can be iffy.
    • And even before that, back when websites were static things made by hand, URLs were generally human-readable and meaningful. The whole "arbitrary primary key in the URL" was a brief blip due to unsophisticated content management systems. It's not even to do with SEO; ask any consumer of a CMS if they'd rather their customers visit /story/3409u65096890547567 or /story/latest-scandel-breaks. They'll always pick the later. Large, random numbers, to most people, are ugly. If they can hide them away behind somet

      • by Qzukk (229616)

        or /story/latest-scandel-breaks

        Spelled that way because latest-scandal-breaks was already taken?

    • by Galestar (1473827)
      If I have access to the URL stream I can probably figure out a lot more about you than that.
  • On trusting shit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:58PM (#38274200) Journal

    If I use any modern mobile 'phone then I assume anything I put on it and where it is can be read by the OS vendor and the carrier. The environment is too tightly controlled and lacking in openness for me to be able to come close to verifying otherwise. We can assume that the facility is only used on rare occasions because one significant revelation of data transmission will put people off buying the product, IOW the only thing keeping anyone safe is the "you're not important enough to matter" card.

    But if you're doing anything remotely interesting, whether that's in industry or activism, you'd be a fucking idiot to use the routine features of a smartphone.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No kidding. They control the gateways... They control the connections... They can infer 99% of what you do by the data going thru *gasp* their servers... Anyone who doesnt know this is delusional...

    • So how do you get around something like this?

      I'm already using a prepaid card in a non-carrier-branded smartphone, but I'm sure that prepaid card still gives my provider some level of access to my phone.

      Has anyone else considered using an unbranded MiFi-type mobile broadband router in conjunction with VPN via the smartphone, and all communications (IM, E-Mail, VoIP) routed through that VPN? Shouldn't be a lot of snooping possible there, right? With no SIM-Card in the phone (or WiFi-only smartphone-sized dev

  • by Snotman (767894) on Monday December 05, 2011 @08:02PM (#38274244)

    If CarrierIQ is making money from studying my behaviors, then I want a cut or I want to uninstall their craptastic software. I should not be forced to consume software I do not want. If Android wants analytics, then build it into Android OS. My relationship is with my phone manufacturer and the OS manufacturer. I should be able to decide what other relationships I want. CarrierIQ can contact me if they think their software somehow adds value to my experience. Otherwise, do more testing.

    • by Fnord666 (889225) on Monday December 05, 2011 @08:11PM (#38274354) Journal

      If CarrierIQ is making money from studying my behaviors, then I want a cut or I want to uninstall their craptastic software. I should not be forced to consume software I do not want. If Android wants analytics, then build it into Android OS. My relationship is with my phone manufacturer and the OS manufacturer. I should be able to decide what other relationships I want. CarrierIQ can contact me if they think their software somehow adds value to my experience. Otherwise, do more testing.

      Just to be clear, CarrierIQ didn't put the software on your phone. Your mobile phone provider, with whom you do have a relationship, put it there. If you feel that is a violation of said relationship, take it up with them. No one forced your provider to install CarrierIQ.

      • by icebike (68054) on Monday December 05, 2011 @08:35PM (#38274626)

        No one forced your provider ti install CarrierIQ

        And you have not a single shred of leverage to get the carrier to remove it.

        Unless and until the hue and cry becomes so loud and congress takes an interest, they will all continue to foist
        this stuff on the user, so your threat to take your business elsewhere means nothing.

        If you don't object this camel's nose, you'll have the neck and forelegs soon.

        CarrierIQ makes its living selling burglar tools. They can't survive without your acquiescence. Your carriers won't help you.

        Go Senator Franken!

        • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

          CarrierIQ makes money if you buy a phone and install a custom kernel - most likely a per-device contract.

          CarrierIQ is making money by selling a service that carriers want. To reply to the original:

          If Android wants analytics, then build it into Android OS.

          Android doesn't, the carrier does, that's why they put it in.

          My relationship is with my phone manufacturer and the OS manufacturer.

          No, just the phone manufacturer, and only if you bought it directly. If you bought it through the carrier, your only relatio

          • Android doesn't, the carrier does, that's why they put it in.

            Whoa, wait a sec. It really bothers me that people suggest (and the article also) that carriers need my DEVICE to send them the info of how I use their service? Don't they have like a log of everything I've ever done with my phone? How do they charge me then? Shall I promise I will be a good boy and not exceed my cheap monthly plan?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If someone at the carrier wants to record every SMS, phone call, or conversation then he or she has much simpler ways to accomplish the task. The carrier sees every exchange through its own equipment and could simply log the exchange in the network - at the network switch or cell site. Why is an application installed at the endpoint something especially sinister?

    • by Stumbles (602007)
      That's a good question. My tinfoil hat says the government is involved with CarrierIQ and all this hoopla is simply a diversion.
    • by TimeOut42 (314783)

      So do those 3rd party SMS apps, email clients, dialers, etc. This is strange or unusual; it just got a lot of press.

    • by Bill Dimm (463823) on Monday December 05, 2011 @08:30PM (#38274562) Homepage

      According to this video [wired.com] Carrier IQ has the ability to capture URLs that are entered, including HTTPS URLs. When a browser makes a secure connection (HTTPS), the URL is encrypted before the browser transmits it to the target webserver to protect any sensitive information it may contain. So the carrier would not be able to log such URLs through their equipment -- Carrier IQ allows them to do it by intercepting before encryption is applied.

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Think of it as a form of digital Tempest. Long range your https is safe.
        But like the electronic devices of the 1950's if your close, you get plain text.
        Every key you press is noted before the https is sent.
        So all the data is safe online, the math "workers" at teclos can tell the world the encryption they sell is "safe"
        But the plain text is still wide open :)
  • but those carriers that installed it on cell phones just might be.
  • seriously (Score:4, Insightful)

    by viperidaenz (2515578) on Monday December 05, 2011 @08:19PM (#38274444)
    Why do people try and point a finger at CarrierIQ? Do you blame Smith & Western every time someone gets shot? Do you blame Volvo when someone steps in front of one of their busses? Do you blame Jack Daniels when someone drinks themself to death? If anyone wants to do any finger pointing it should be at the one responsible for installing and configuring the software - the carriers themselves.
    • by Luckyo (1726890)

      Smith&Wesson and amen.

    • Damn. It's almost like you planned it... I'm certain S&W has been sued over use of their guns. Volvo... Look up European regulations requiring manufacturers to make their cars and trucks safer to pedestrians. Jack Daniels has been sued by the families of alcoholics. So, apparently, people do blame the vendor for irresponsible use of their products even if it is outside of the vendor's control or the intended use of the product.
      • Just because people blame vendors for irresponsible use of their products doesn't make it right
        • Don't claim it's right, just that it happens. Sometimes it's so blatently stupid it's sad. Sometimes it makes me mad when I see it happen. But that doesn't change the reality that people do stupid things and try to blame others for it.
    • Because there are no legitimate uses of this software. And no, data mining is not legitimate.
      • What if I was a company that supplied a phone to my employees on the strict conditions that it be used only for business purposes and notified them that use of it is monitored for compliance? Also, if CarrierIQ didn't provide such software, don't you think the carriers wouldn't write their own? Better to have one piece of software that is removable than n different pieces of software developed by each carrier that probably aren't tested as well and can't be removed or as easily detected. Since they provide
        • by gl4ss (559668)

          would carriers write it on their own?
          carriers can't do jack shit on their own.

          what happened is that someone who had good ties to carriers sold them this idea, probably laced the pep-talk with crap about how they can detect unauthorized tethering with it(neither carrier nor cIQ would put that into writing though you can be sure of that, even though that's the biggest logical use for this product - and if you check who is using it then you can put 1+1 together), got the contract and the rest is history.

          don't

    • I personally blame CIQ because the intercepted credentials are being sent to CIQ property; none of the items intercepted are incidental to providing any form of service; they then traffic a derivative of the intercepted credentials to the subscribing carrier.

      If you seriously don't understand why this is a big deal... how many decades of jailtime would YOU get if you secretly did this to a SINGLE client's machine.

      Tossing a skimmer onto an ATM does NOT become "legal" simply because you promise to "throw away

      • Tossing a skimmer onto an ATM does NOT become "legal" simply because you promise to "throw away the odd numbered digits".

        It does if the ATM provider tells you to, and you make that promise to the provider

  • "but as it's currently deployed by carriers it doesn't have the ability to record SMS messages, phone calls or keystrokes."

    "Currently" is the key word here and is subject to change over time!

  • by wickerprints (1094741) on Monday December 05, 2011 @09:17PM (#38274974)

    As usual, the crux of the matter has to do with TRANSPARENCY and CONSUMER CONSENT. The question of whether or not CarrierIQ is actually capturing user behavior through the software is important, but actually secondary to the fact that the carriers themselves do not TELL the consumer that (1) we've installed this logging software on your device; (2) it is not possible through normal means to deactivate it; (3) this software runs without any disclosure or agreement in your contract; (4) this software runs on your device even if you are no longer under contract or even subscribed as our customer; and (5) this software is not an integrated component of the device's operating system.

    And why don't they tell you these things? Because they can get away with it. The fact that this software is so hidden from the user, and is NEVER mentioned in any of the legal documentation you are asked to sign, is all the reason why the consumer cannot and should not be expected to simply take either the mobile network operator or CarrierIQ at their word when they say they're not tracking personally identifiable information. Yes, researchers have chimed in with their findings. But such broad, unregulated, and pervasive tools as CarrierIQ have enormous potential for abuse, and it is simply unacceptable to allow these companies to just chalk it up to "sorry we kept this a secret from you, but TRUST US, it's all perfectly innocent." Yeah, bullshit. If it were truly so innocuous, why did you go through such lengths to hide it and make it difficult to disable or remove?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "If it were truly so innocuous, why did you go through such lengths to hide it and make it difficult to disable or remove?"

      Because people like you would disable it and then complain that they have had 15 dropped calls in the last couple of days and make forum posts about how awful X carrier is when it could have been fixed relatively easy via anonymous data statistics (which, contrary to what everyone thinks, is all the carriers are PAYING for with CIQ).

      I agree that CIQ should be stripped down to the point

      • by PoopCat (2218334)
        Neither my nor my wife's phones have CIQ installed; please explain how we're worse off for it.
      • What is wrong with taking customer complaint calls and responding that way? There will always be a few people that whine about bad coverage; that doesn't mean the problem is on the carrier's end. If the majority of customers have a good experience, things will work out.

        Verizon, the US's largest carrier, does not use CarrierIQ. Verizon is also largely believed to have the best/most reliable coverage of the big four. Clearly, you don't NEED CarrierIQ to successfully manage a network.

    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      If you read your contract, you agreed. And, they can already see nearly everything anyway. If you bought the phone directly and not through a carrier, you probably have a valid legal situation, but they most likely don't install CARRIERIQ on a direct purchased phone. And as for the post-termination data collection, I haven't seen anything showing the data is sent anywhere after the contract is terminated, or in fact any actual packet capture of any data sent - only internal events being fired.

      Every text

    • by thsths (31372)

      > The fact that this software is so hidden from the user,

      Exactly - this is a clandestine operation, and CarrierIQ has taken several steps to try to keep it such. "If you haven't done anything wrong, you don't mind being found out, hm?" Unfortunately CarrierIQ has all the hallmarks of something fishy going on.

      And here comes the good part: the customer (we) have the right to go just with a rumour and vote with our feet. We need no investigate, no due process, no shred of tangible evidence. A suspicion

    • by ronabop (520121)
      Let's take, oh, car monitoring systems.
      (1) we've installed this logging software on your device;
      Like a car error monitoring system.
      (2) it is not possible through normal means to deactivate it;
      Like a car error monitoring system.
      (3) this software runs without any disclosure or agreement in your contract;
      Like a car error monitoring system.
      (4) this software runs on your device even if you are no longer under contract or even subscribed as our customer;
      Like a car error monitoring system.
      and
    • They may have hidden it to prevent users from deleting it. One of the things I'd expect CIQ to collect is data on signal strength combined with location data. This can be used to create a map with signal strengths: helpfull to identify where more antenna's should be placed.
      If users find out there is a program on their phone that does this the user may want to delete it, so CIQ made it hard to find and hard to delete. But they forgot the Streisand Effect.
      What they should have done is offer a discount if
  • by clonehappy (655530) on Monday December 05, 2011 @09:53PM (#38275298)
    Here's the thing. I think this whole CarrierIQ debacle is being played up in the media for exactly the reason stated in the title, because it ISN'T logging data, texts. It really isn't sending your data back to the carrier, government, or whomever. What it does, is far beyond the understanding of the average consumer of the nightly news. So the media will trot out the experts who say, "This software does not send your data back to the carrier, it just hooks the keyboard for diagnostic purposes at a level beneath the userland of the Android operating system."

    And, whoosh.

    In the minds of the masses, it was harmless.

    But it isn't harmless. The software certainly has the capability of monitoring/logging/reporting every keypress on the phone and sending it to whomever it's configured to send it to. No one outside the "slashdot-esque" crowd knows much about rootkits, system hooks, etc. etc., however. But now, whenever someone mentions the fact that phones are spying on you, everyone can come out and say "No, they're not. Didn't you hear? CarrierIQ was harmless. You're a tinfoil-hat nutter!" Even though they still will be monitoring everyone, either through this method, ones hidden better, at the switching center, or voluntarily (Facebook, etc.) And it'll be business as usual.

    Right now, you can be pretty certain your phone isn't doing any real, wholesale spying, since to transport that amount of voice/video, or whatever type of data will kill your connection and drain your battery faster than you can say "fourth amendment" (until you connect to wi-fi, of course). The real trojan horses are the 4G networks. Especially once LTE connections are the norm, it will be trivial to log a tremendous amount of real-time "intelligence" (because that's exactly what these phones are, intelligence gathering tools) and quickly whisk it up to whomever wants to see your data without you noticing. I'm sure it'll be as simple as someone in a spook hideout pressing a button and, voila, the 4G network is providing them a real-time peek and listen into your life.

    They're not kidding: Intelligence Everywhere! [blogspot.com]
    • We never saw data leave the device. Simple. Don't trust anything, and prove data being sent with actual packet captures. Echkart's video shows events being caught, nothing more, as you pointed out. If someone says the next wave is harmless, it is simple to demonstrate that it's not. Explain it with as few syllables as possible with a video that anyone could reproduce. Get the word out right now that Eckhart's vieo is misleading, even if people don't understand exactly why.

      Distrust everything, even secu

      • Holding data and sending it later when the transmission would not seem out of place is trivial. It is possible to discover spyware through packet-sniffing, but quite impossible to certify that spyware does not exist on a system. (This is why people who do anything but reformat and restore from backup in case of security breaches or virus infections are idiots.)
    • It's interesting that even now carriers can deduct bandwidth you use to connect through their app to get some help/assistance or account info. Akin to calling *611 which will not be counted toward your monthly minute allowance.

      Which means Carrier IQ could be using up loads of bandwidth, but your carrier will not count it against your limit.

      The only way to tell is to install a 3rd party bandwidth usage monitor, or by your battery life.
  • CarrierIQ claiming the responsibility is all on the carriers is a bit of a stretch. It's like a lock manufacturer giving your home builder (or mortgage company) a key to your house, then trying to claim they have no responsibility for how the home builder (or mortgage company) uses that key. Claiming "we didn't know they were going to rob or rape you" doesn't really absolve them of responsibility or liability.

  • Every email that you send whether encrypted or not travels through multiple servers on the internet and is stored, at least temporarily on each of those servers as it routes through the internet.

    If you are concerned about privacy, you should not divulge sensitive information on the internet or use encrypted email and/or more secure point to point protocols.

    The stark reality however, is that nobody is interested in spying on boring ordinary people never mind that spying on everyone would be prohibitively exp

  • "United States Patent US 7,551,922 B2 Jun. 23, 2009"

    "tracks the data collection activity occurring on the devices and maintains detailed information about the specific data collection profiles that are active on the devices .. The queries may be structured in such a way that performance information is gathered about the effect of a simple activity, such as a button press by the user, or information may be gathered about more complex transactions" link [google.com]
    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      So it's a framework for capturing what the carrier configures it to capture. What's important is, what does the carrier want to capture? If anyone gives a fat damn, we need to know how to get the configuration. Even if that means disassembling the code because configuration is done at compile time. Each carrier will be different, and I'm pretty sure each device could be different.

      The patent tells us nothing.

    • "a US FOI report suggests that the FBI is using data captured by the creepy smartphone snooping app" link [theregister.co.uk]
  • by izomiac (815208) on Monday December 05, 2011 @11:30PM (#38275954) Homepage
    Here's a quick summary regarding keystroke logging made by the two recent articles:

    Original video [youtube.com] that demonstrated CarrierIQ logging keystrokes. I.e. not a theoretic capability, nor a risk, but actual entries into the system log. This was performed on an stock HTC Evo 3D.

    This article is asserting that CarrierIQ does not contain the necessary hooks for keystroke logging on the Samsung Epic 4G Touch.

    IOW, the two articles are not making the same claim. It is already known that different phones have different versions of CarrierIQ. This article isn't claiming that no phone has the capability to log keystrokes, merely that the Epic does not. The original article wasn't claiming that all phones are logging keystrokes, merely that the Evo is. Methinks someone is trying to manipulate public opinion, as the original video is surprisingly difficult to find, and this article's claims were immediately exaggerated and that version of the story was popularized.
  • Forgetting about the argument if the OS being owned or licensed by the phone owner, the actual hardware is owned by the user. And even assuming that the cell providers were complicant in installing the software... Any software installed without the consent or knowledge of the user is using processor resources. Would the use of use of clock cycles without permission be considered theft of services? Before laughing, too hard, imagine what would happen if someone broke into any corporate computer in the wo
  • by Casandro (751346) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @02:21AM (#38276834)

    The point is that if I buy a computer, I should do exactly what I want it to do. Installing any sort of software which I don't want for any reason is a step in the wrong direction.

    Seriously, we need to get the operators and the hardware companies out of the software loop. I get my software from one place, the hardware from another and the wireless service comes from a third.

  • I fixed that issue. I just bought a Nokia N9.

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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