James Butler's Blog

Rootkit of All Evil?

November 16, 2011 05:11

Ohhhh ... I was sooo hoping that the Android ecosystem would be driven by enlightened self-interest instead of by the money- and data-grubbing tradition. This 11/14/2011 article from XDA-Developers exposes a disturbing piece of software installed with Android that puts the lie to my naive little hope. Not surprisingly, this piece of tech is also found in most major mobile device operating systems, too.

The software is called "CIQ" (Carrier IQ), and it is a network activity observation and reporting tool. This tool gathers unknown quantities of info from mobile devices, and posts it to unknown entities. Among the items CIQ gathers are such things as device location, calls placed, text messages sent and received, and even extends to the actual text the user is entering into their keyboard.

Here's a link to the story: http://www.xda-developers.com/android/the-rootkit-of-all-evil-ciq/

It seems the software was designed to take its data from user input (i.e. surveys, etc.), but it actually runs invisibly without any user interaction. The data it gathers and posts would be useful for lots of different kinds of troubleshooting and performance issues, so it's not like it's completely malicious.

But the fact that this software is installed without the users knowledge and gathers such deeply detailed information about the use of the device puts is squarely into the "spyware" category ... a category from which manufacturers must NEVER draw.

Those of us with some technical expertise can remove the software from our devices, but the vast majority of mobile device users either cannot or will not approach this solution, and therefore will be tracked in all manner of ways over which they have no say for the life of their device.

Filing this under "un-Ethical", as simply installing this software without the user's knowledge is a violation of trust.

 

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