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CarrierIQ: Most Phones Ship With "Rootkit"

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the your-keystrokes-may-be-monitored-for-qa-purposes dept.

Android 447

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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447 comments

Doesn't Matter (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38073924)

It doesn't matter because Android is open.

That's all that matters.

Re:Doesn't Matter (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Doesn't Matter (5, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074182)

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

Re:Doesn't Matter (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074274)

The Android that you can get from Google's websites may be open but the software you physically get on phones is usually closed (it's neither FSF-free nor DFSG-free). If you're not convinced, read Stallman's article on it.

Re:Doesn't Matter (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074336)

So are my girlfriend's legs, but that doesn't mean I want anyone and everyone inside them.

Also to stave it off: Haha, epic fail, because everybody knows slashdotters don't have girlfriends! Least of all ones who aren't nerds and weren't paid for!

but but but... Apple (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38073950)

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

Re:but but but... Apple (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074034)

oh boy you are so naive and wrong about that

Re:but but but... Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074044)

That's an interesting assumption. Who pays the piper?

Re:but but but... Apple (3, Insightful)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074056)

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:but but but... Apple (2, Insightful)

Tr3vin (1220548) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074094)

Unless, of course, those walls have security cameras mounted on them.

Re:but but but... Apple (0)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074128)

Unless, of course, those walls have security cameras mounted on them.

With everything, there are pros and cons. Sometimes the pros outweight the cons, sometimes it's the other way around. And it"'s certainly not the same for everyone.

What was your point again?

Re:but but but... Apple (-1, Flamebait)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074316)

What are the "pros" to pounding yourself in the crotch with a sledgehammer?

Re:but but but... Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074384)

Sterility?

Re:but but but... Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074406)

What are the "pros" to pounding yourself in the crotch with a sledgehammer?

Going on Apple's example, you'd be trendy among self-deluded hipster types and have a disturbingly disproportionate amount of media attention. Next question?

Re:but but but... Apple (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074416)

Unless, of course, those walls have security cameras mounted on them.

With everything, there are pros and cons. Sometimes the pros outweight the cons, sometimes it's the other way around. And it"'s certainly not the same for everyone.

What was your point again?

His point is that there very well could be the exact same "features" present in iOS devices, as you seem to allude that there are not (given that this is one way they are "better"), but do not have any actual evidence to prove it...

Re:but but but... Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074270)

Yes definitely a pro - I mean instead of having all these different companies stealing your data you only have one. Thanks Apple for making things easier!

Re:but but but... Apple (5, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074096)

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:but but but... Apple (2, Interesting)

Kazin (3499) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074194)

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

Re:but but but... Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074344)

What?

Re:but but but... Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074396)

There is no evidence of any keyloggers or sending browsing history back to Apple built into the iPhone.

Troll this guy down to where he belongs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074452)

Twit, please link to the articles that reveal apple has key-loggers on the iPhone or get off your "I'm kewl and a free-thinker because I hate Apple" pedestal and make comments you can actually back up.

Re:Troll this guy down to where he belongs. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074598)

Absence of evidence != Evidence of absence... Anyone even vaguely familiar with scientific principles (or information security) should know this.

Re:Troll this guy down to where he belongs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074646)

Apple customers can use a key-logger so so can u! [applefanatic.org]

I am using this iPhone keylogger to track my little son's messages and call activities, and it works fine, but I am not sure if it can save your email and password for your Facebook app.
http://www.iphone-spy-software.com

Re:but but but... Apple (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074458)

No, which is why you go to and disable it in diagnostics and usage?

Re:but but but... Apple (1)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074564)

I know /. is the home of the paranoids, but I send all my diagnostics and usage to Apple. I even file bug reports. If it helps Apple improve the experience for the paranoids, it's a win-win situation.

Re:but but but... Apple (1)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074594)

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

I think the information Apple can potentially glean off of my iPhone data is a heck of a lot less revealing than the information Google can and does glean from Google Search, maps, youtube views, GMail...

Anyway...with Apple, is it spying if you click "I accept" on the EULA? Read it carefully sometime. Seriously.

Re:but but but... Apple (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074770)

Anyway...with Apple, is it spying if you click "I accept" on the EULA?

Yes.

a)Burying something in a 20-page EULA (or however long it is) in legalese doesn't make it obvious. And more importantly b) spying is still spying even if you know about it. Spying usually implies secrecy, but it by no means requires it.

Re:but but but... Apple (4, Insightful)

sribe (304414) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:but but but... Apple (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074584)

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.

What discount? You actually think you aren't paying full price and then some for your "free" phone? By that logic, I put $20,000 down on a $200,000 house. I got a hell of a "discount" didn't I? Oh, wait...

Re:but but but... Apple (0, Troll)

chomsky68 (1719996) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074616)

CarrierIQ was also found on iPhones so there goes your nice speach out the window. Next time RTFA.

Re:but but but... Apple (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074208)

i love my iphone, and i'll never pick up a windows phone 7 device...

I just wish that Apple would install a catflap like Microsoft did with WP7.

(The ADD inducing Metro UI can stay though)

Re:but but but... Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074574)

...aand fan boys in 3...2.. --fuck i need to lower my count down.

Re:but but but... Apple (3, Informative)

strech (167037) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Cyanogen (4, Insightful)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#38073960)

Nice.

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

Re:Cyanogen (5, Funny)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074038)

Tell that to my Mom. You're in for a rough ride, I'll tell you that much!

Re:Cyanogen (5, Funny)

gparent (1242548) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074072)

I'm always in for a rough ride with your mom. Oh, you mean to install Cyanogenmod?

Re:Cyanogen (4, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074132)

Plus, as any Aussie can tell you, rooting a phone is more than little bit kinky.

Re:Cyanogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074592)

Kinky? As far as I understood it it is actually very common, so common people should think twice about acquiring used cellphones if the last owner was female or gay.

It is only kinky if a straight male tries to do it...

Re:Cyanogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074086)

Your mom loves rough rides, I'll tell you that much.

Re:Cyanogen (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074116)

Tell that to my Mom. You're in for a rough ride, I'll tell you that much!

Your mom gives rough rides? Cool, I like it rough!

Re:Cyanogen (2)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074774)

My wife was against me modding her phone, until she got fed up with the glitchy behavior. Noticing how well CM works on my phone, now she's begging me to upgrade hers. It's really not much different than the factory roms, it is just more stable and doesn't have all of the integrated garbage. Not much of a learning curve.

Re:Cyanogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074084)

if this indeed a rootkit then that might not work.

though it seems it was written with known quantities (e.g. handset model, OS) in mind so it may not be particuarly robust.

i've not read the article thoguh.

Re:Cyanogen (4, Informative)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074630)

I put Cyanogen on my Samsung Vibrant. It has "removed carrier iq" in the release notes.

Re:Cyanogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074666)

Not if the implementation on your phone is incomplete, like that of the original motodroid, and others.

Really? (2)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#38073966)

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.

Re:Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074054)

Yes, but most of the data you describe can be derived from network usage.
Something you can not avoid, since that data is being used to calculate how much money they can extort from you.
Being able to see everything I do on my phone is quite a different thing, and I don't see how they can expect to have any business with how much I use software X,Y,Z on my phone.

Re:Really? (3, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074352)

I'm unclear here. Why isn't senior management and the board being hauled into court, forced to pay bail of a million bucks and the FBI seizing every single document within the United States? I mean, every time some fucking dipshit downloads a copy of some piece of Hollywood excrement, Congress and the courts are bending over backwards to punish the evildoer, but when major companies start throwing rootkit spyware on their phones, it's like "oh well."

If I was in charge, those companies would be facing destructive fines (hundreds of millions of dollars), senior management and the board would be cooling it in prison cells and facing stripping of every single asset they own and years of jail time ahead of them. I would make those fuckers so terrified that they'd wake up three times every night of the rest of their lives fearing that some marketing fuck had put something like that on the phones they're selling.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074516)

You can't just haul people into court, etc because it suits your whim. You need this thing called a 'law'. What law would allow what you suggest?

Re:Really? (2)

biodata (1981610) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074670)

Most places have some form of misuse of computers act, data protection act, and others. Maybe it's time to start requesting copies of all personal data from the phone carriers in the same way as has been done recently with FB.

Re:Really? (5, Informative)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074528)

" By entering this Agreement, you consent to our data collection, use and sharing practices described in our Privacy Policy available at verizon.com/privacy." -- from Verizon Customer Agreement

That's why.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074756)

" By entering this Agreement, you consent to our data collection, use and sharing practices described in our Privacy Policy available at verizon.com/privacy." -- from Verizon Customer Agreement

That's why.

"By accepting my business and taking my money, you consent that you will give me the promised service and not gauge me for private information or throttle my experience below anything but the promised unlimited service, whether selectively by e.g. protocol or not." -- from my Service Provider Agreement

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074562)

I'm unclear here. Why isn't senior management and the board being hauled into court, forced to pay bail of a million bucks and the FBI seizing every single document within the United States? I mean, every time some fucking dipshit downloads a copy of some piece of Hollywood excrement, Congress and the courts are bending over backwards to punish the evildoer, but when major companies start throwing rootkit spyware on their phones, it's like "oh well."

Good point. Why hasn't the FBI gone after TrevE for stealing the property of CIQ?

Oh, and in case you are wondering, the first image is from a “virgin” copy of CIQ. Our beloved dev found a pristine copy of this along with a ton of information, including training videos, guides,

Re:Really? (2)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074690)

I'm all for torturing executives, placing them in jail, fining them till they have no money, etc, etc.....

It's just that China goes above and beyond that by actually killing the people responsible and yet corruption is still rampant so I don't think that doing any of the above will actually change anything.

Don't get me wrong I am still for it even if it is ineffective. It would just make me feel good knowing that the people who screw so many people get screwed.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074426)

If software X,Y,Z crashes your phone, or interferes with performance (data/voice or battery) they phone company likes to be able to tell you how to fix it (instead getting returns on perfectly good hardware.)

Re:Really? (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074502)

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. It had the net effect of effectively doubling the amount of data needed for any request ... I don't recall the specifics, but he spent a good portion of a weekend working it out.

And, as much as we know they have all of the calling info ... keylogging, for example, might be a little too far over the line for them. They only need what they need for billing purposes.

So (1)

leon.gandalf (752828) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074002)

How to identify and remove this application would be nice...

"Smart" phones are a dumb buy. (1, Insightful)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074118)

This is why I'm not buying a "smart" phone until until they release one with a fully open software stack (excluding the little bit of firmware that controls the cellular modem.)

Re:"Smart" phones are a dumb buy. (1)

Tragek (772040) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074160)

But if you're worried about privacy and control, doesn't it worry you about what can be hidden in the baseband?

If I were a government of power, trying to add surveillance tech, that's where I'd put it!

Re:"Smart" phones are a dumb buy. (0)

GReaToaK_2000 (217386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074320)

Anyone that complains about personal info / privacy concerns and uses hotmail, yahoo, gmail, facebook, twitt-head-er, etc. etc. has NO leg to stand on.

Re:"Smart" phones are a dumb buy. (2)

JDG1980 (2438906) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074628)

Anyone that complains about personal info / privacy concerns and uses hotmail, yahoo, gmail, facebook, twitt-head-er, etc. etc. has NO leg to stand on.

Oh, please. With Facebook, anyone with half a clue knows going in that you shouldn't post anything you don't want seen in public. Same goes for Twitter.

Phone calls are very different. You have an expectation of privacy when calling someone. Laws going back decades prohibit wiretapping without a warrant.

Re:"Smart" phones are a dumb buy. (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074446)

Sure, but you can encyrpt communications point to point. (ssh tunnel, GPG, or a SIP provider the supports encryption).

Re:"Smart" phones are a dumb buy. (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074170)

Probably your best bet will be a Nexus series with CyanogenMod ROM. That is as close to open as you will find on any smartphone since the N900.

Re:"Smart" phones are a dumb buy. (1)

Tragek (772040) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074198)

But if you were worried about privacy and control, why exclude the baseband firmware? If one is powerful and malicious, wouldn't that be the ideal place to put surveillance tech?

Re:"Smart" phones are a dumb buy. (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074482)

Because It's fairly implausible any carrier would let you set some of the data in it, and again you can encrypt the data-stream.

Re:"Smart" phones are a dumb buy. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074272)

You make the assumption that your "dumb" phone doesn't contain something similar. I'd be surprised if it doesn't. People dig into smart phone OSes more and so find more of these things out. One could argue that by using a smart phone you might at least be better educated (through reading /. and tech blogs) about the stuff carriers are loading onto your phone that you may/may not want. With a "dumb" phone, you may just have the same problems but sitting in ignorance of them. And you may find that preferable. To each his own.

Re:"Smart" phones are a dumb buy. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074330)

Have you tried the Nokia N900?

Which reminds me... (0)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074154)

...I need to root my phone and install a mod onto it.
Here's hoping there's a stable mod for the Incredible 2, because last time I looked they were all pretty flakey.

Re:Which reminds me... (1)

dingo_kinznerhook (1544443) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074326)

It might be flakey, but there's a CyanogenMod build for the Incredible 2. http://www.cyanogenmod.com/devices/htc-incredible-2 [cyanogenmod.com]

Re:Which reminds me... (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074508)

Which is more than I could find last i looked, the only thing i could find before was terribly made user mods released in forums, and often in the same thread many users reported them not working. Thanks for the link. I'll be messing it more after work.

So? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074410)

Basically your carrier has a way to precisely know what the fuck you did and your phone died. Instead of playing the guessing game at customer support. It even has an opt-out option.

http://www.xda-developers.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/CIQoverview.png?139d23

How is this different than the information any new software collects to improve your experience, providing you with an opt-in/out option as well?
Why is this bad again?

some legitimate technical questions (4, Interesting)

nimbius (983462) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074432)

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?

Ooh, found the battery drain bug! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074442)

How much battery drain does this app cause? Is this un-killable, always on, always logging service part of the reason we see inconsistent battery drain across a large group of devices?

You'd think people would learn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074522)

This should surprise no one. Phone carriers are consumer hostile and one of android's selling points is that is more "carrier friendly" than the iphone.
Apple's biggest contribution to the mobile device market is and was wrestling control away from carriers. I recognized this from day one and I've enjoyed my iphone since.

I will trust Apple over any mobile phone carrier. Period.

Samsung Vibrant (4, Informative)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074558)

how "the land of the free" also means that the companies are free to rape your privacy. Horray for the ultimate freedom. Nothing but hard work to kepp up to date on who is abusing you.

The Price of Progress (2)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

list? (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074570)

Does anyone have a list of the phones/carriers that implement this?
"many Android, Nokia, and BlackBerry smartphones" doesn't really help us.

How much data? (1)

oic0 (1864384) | more than 2 years ago | (#38074590)

Soooo.... is data sent to them by this app exempt from your data cap and data usage rates? if not, perhaps someone can start a class action and make them bleed.

Sounds like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074680)

This sounds very similar to the Microsoft CEIP (Customer Experience Improvement) data collection that is strictly opt-in. The difference? Nobody gets to opt-in (or out) of this smart phone based one. But it is probably for the same intent - figure out what features get used, which don't get used, which may be confusing, etc. It would be nice if Motorola would use this to figure out how many people replace their Blur launcher with something else. Maybe they would stop development on Blur if they knew. Now, this should be opt-in. End of story. The purpose probably isn't nefarious at all. But it should be opt-in.

The real, important questions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074688)

In typical slashdot style, I'm seeing a lot of In Soviet Russia jokes, and a lot of apple vs android comments. Why is nobody asking the real questions?

1.How can we as users detect if our phones are running this software?
2.Does a completely custom rom negate this? (cyanogen, etc)
3.Is it possible to remove or deactivate it on a rooted phone with stock rom?

And so on. Generally speaking, we should be asking the how's and why's on this. Not talking about setting carrier CEOs on fire.

2 Questions (4, Interesting)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 2 years ago | (#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?

android permissions (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38074740)

ever since I saw that this application was granted literally *every* permission in the android SDK, I made a point of killing the process after every reboot :P

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