Saturday, December 3, 2011

Android – The Spyware Platform

Much has been made recently of the Carrier IQ rootkit software installed on many phones. If you aren't familiar with Carrier IQ, google it.

While there are still questions as to whether or not Carrier IQ’s software broke any laws or was ever used for anything other than helping carriers to improve services, the real stench is the spyware that is factory pre-installed by carriers such as T-Mobile. You, as a user are not allowed to uninstall the spyware you don't want, manufacturers, such as HTC act as the enforcer for the cellular providers by nullifying the warranty of your phone if you take the only action possible to eradicate unwanted spyware from your cell phone… rooting the device.

I maintain that any software installed on your cell phone that can access and utilize personal information without your informed consent, is not required for the functionality of the device, and cannot be removed is spyware. If you choose to install a program that is supported by adware and it has access to your contacts, the manifest reveals that this is the case. If you don’t like it, you can decide to remove it. If you don’t agree to grant such access to the program, you don’t install it.

Now take a look at the factory pre-installed applications on your Android device that you don’t use, the permissions they have been granted that you never approved of, and see if you are able to remove them. In settings>applications>manage applications, choose all applications and then when you select an application there will be a functional uninstall button if you can uninstall it. If you scroll down you will see the permissions the application has been granted. Without some sleuthing, you really don’t know if the program is using those permissions all of the time or only when you run the app.

I will discuss specific spyware applications that T-Mobile has forced upon users in future blog posts.

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