Over the last couple of days, there has been a lot of talk around the web regarding Carrier IQ. The company makes user-tracking software for Android, BlackBerry, and Symbian handsets that secretly logs keystrokes, text messages, and other data.
Initially, the program was thought to be exclusive to the above-mentioned operating systems, so we didn’t feel the need to report on it. But chpwn, a well-known developer of jailbreak apps, has recently found Carrier IQ’s software hidden within iOS…
The program, which is known as IQRD, was exposed earlier this week by 25-year old Trevor Eckhart. The systems administrator published a video showing Carrier IQ’s application logging keystrokes from text messages, dial pad, and even encrypted web pages on his HTC EVO.
Here’s a video of Eckhart demonstrating IQRD. It gets rather interesting around the 8:30 mark:
As you can see, the software doesn’t show up in the device’s app menu and it never warns you that it’s recording your keystrokes. It’s there though, and the scary part is that it’s sending out some of this data. But what exactly it’s sending and to whom is still a mystery. We know that the program is pre-installed by handset makers along with other diagnostic apps, but we’re not sure why.
Some folks have speculated that the software is used to gather user information for wireless networks to sell to third-party companies. Perhaps this would explain why some folks get random spam-like text messages for no apparent reason. Even worse is that Eckhart believes that someone with the right knowledge could hijack the software’s data and gain access to all kinds of private information on your handset. Not to mention the constantly running spy program can’t be good for your device’s battery life.
What can you do about software that you can’t see or uninstall? Chpwn has found, for iPhone users on iOS 5 at least, that switching off the handset’s “Diagnostic and Usage” toggle in the Settings app disables IQRD. Do this by opening the Settings app, selecting General, About, and then Diagnostics & Usage.
Carrier IQ has already come forward with a few statements regarding its tracking software, claiming it’s used primarily for maintaining network performance and measuring mobile user experiences. But since we don’t see the privacy-conscious public letting that explanation fly, we expect to hear more about this in the very near future.
What are your thoughts on Carrier IQ’s user tracking software?