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Unauthorized iOS Apps Leak Private Data Less Than Approved Ones

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the curated-for-a-different-purpose dept.

IOS 179

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "In the wake of news that the iPhone app Path uploads users' entire contact lists without permission, Forbes dug up a study from a group of researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the International Security Systems Lab that aimed to analyze how and where iPhone apps transmit users' private data. Not only did the researchers find that one in five of the free apps in Apple's app store upload private data back to the apps' creators that could potentially identify users and allow profiles to be built of their activities; they also discovered that programs in Cydia, the most popular platform for unauthorized apps that run only on 'jailbroken' iPhones, tend to leak private data far less frequently than Apple's approved apps. The researchers ran their analysis on 1,407 free apps (PDF) on the two platforms. Of those tested apps, 21 percent of official App Store apps uploaded the user's Unique Device Identifier, for instance, compared with only four percent of unauthorized apps."

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179 comments

Profit. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39041551)

In other words, applications developed by people interested in profit are more likely to steal your data.

Hopefully this does not come as a shock to most slashdotters.

Re:Profit. (-1, Flamebait)

SiMac (409541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041621)

Why is it that the same people who claim that pirating movies isn't stealing claim that copying your data is?

(And in this case, "steal your data" mostly means send your device ID to a server, which has arguable legitimate uses.)

How about Android apps ? (4, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041681)

Anyone has done any research on Android apps, on the same topic ?

Re:How about Android apps ? (4, Informative)

mjwx (966435) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041869)

Anyone has done any research on Android apps, on the same topic ?

Actually, very few leak details.

Android applications have to ask permissions to get access to the internet or your personal details.

Re:How about Android apps ? (4, Insightful)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042211)

Anyone has done any research on Android apps, on the same topic ?

Actually, very few leak details.

Android applications have to ask permissions to get access to the internet or your personal details.

Which is all but the same as most tech-unaware users will dismiss the dialog. What they understand behind these dialog boxes is that if they click "No", the App won't work.

It's a bit like electing the president. It's nice to ask people for their opinion, but the overwhelming majority has no clue what's at stake, so it serves very little purpose.

Still, it's better than not asking. A little.

Re:How about Android apps ? (4, Insightful)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042275)

Yes, I'd consider myself a 'tech-aware user', and even Google's own apps want such a laundry list of permissions, it turns into "fuck, whatever" and then you press OK.

Using Android was actually an interesting experiment for me, because I'd mulled over the possibilities of a capabilities-based permission system for many years. Then when I finally got one, I found it was realistically about as useful as an IE ActiveX dialog.

Re:How about Android apps ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042527)

I've found them pretty good, though I wish you could restrict internet access to specific domains and I also wish you could turn off specific permissions (so app developers would have to check that they have the permission before they used it, erroring - and asking for the permission - if that permission was required).

I fairly often see games and such asking for access to my contact data - presumably to do what is commonplace on the iphone. So, I reject them. It works pretty well.

Re:How about Android apps ? (2)

Keeper Of Keys (928206) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042703)

> I also wish you could turn off specific permissions (so app developers would have to check that they have the permission before they used it, erroring - and asking for the permission - if that permission was required).

Yes. Or maybe an option to "Install with No Permissions" or something. It would be interesting to see which parts of the app required which permissions, then you could make an informed choice whether you wanted X feature enough to expose yourself in that specific way.

Re:How about Android apps ? (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042755)

Then you have to get a Symbian S60 phone. They show dialogs request for permissions as the app needs them, not upfront. For example, I can launch Opera Mini and I have to give it network access, but I'm only asked for filesystem access (not with this name, of course) when I download some file.

Re:How about Android apps ? (2)

mulaz (1538147) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042801)

There is an app called LBE security (or something simmilar, search for LBE), where you can give/take away permissions, and you can have the app prompt for some permissions ona per-use basis.

So, if angry birds wants location info, you get a pop-up, choose Don't allow (because it doesnt need it), mark 'remember', and continue playing.

The bigger question is, what data does the aplication itself send around, since it requires a rooted phone.

Re:How about Android apps ? (3, Informative)

cduffy (652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043129)

I wish you could restrict internet access to specific domains and I also wish you could turn off specific permissions

CyanogenMod does this (allowing specific permissions to be rescinded).

Re:How about Android apps ? (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043193)

What android really needs(and probably won't get, for actively self-interested reasons; but so it goes...) is the ability to lie.

Right now, you can at least see what outrageous demands an application is making; but it's a take-it-or-leave-it thing. You cannot, for instance, specify that an application that wants your contacts list for no reason useful to you installed such that any attempt to access the contacts list returns a false one, rather than the actual system-wide contacts.

It'd likely add some resource overhead; but you could theoretically have a per-app 'virtual' set of android.* interfaces: some could transparently map to the real ones, others could be defined by a filter against the real ones(for network access, a specific set of firewall rules, or android.location interface that is based on the genuine android.location data; but with resolution reduced or a fictitious offset introduced, for instance), and some could be based on pure fictions unrelated to the real interface.

The ability to lie would allow you to push back against the creeping trend to just demand all kinds of permissions without obvious reason; but still provide well-formed inputs where applications expect them, so that things will still work(alternative uses, such as polluting the databases of the various 'social' scum who treat hoovering up contacts as a business model, are left as an exercise to the reader); but the device owner's wishes will be preserved.

Re:How about Android apps ? (4, Interesting)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043689)

Yup - I've been advocating the same thing. LBE Privacy Guard is the closest I've seen to it in implementation - I assume it actually works.

This was proposed as a feature for Cyanogenmod and shot down. CM now has the ability to revoke individual permissions, but it tends to lead to lots of force-close issues. Most likely they're just sending errors to applications, and not simply lying to them (which is less likely to cause a force-close - app designers already have to handle the case where a user has one contact named John Smith and they never leave Topeka with an IMEI of 12345678). When the app force closes CM tells the user it is their fault for revoking permissions and offers to let them unrevoke them.

Android puts far too much control in the hands of app developers. It is like Windows 3.1 - it works great until some app decides to misbehave. Users, and not app designers, should be the final word in whether an app can run a service all day, or use the GPS vs the network, or transmit x GB of data per day, or whatever. And that final word shouldn't simply be to use or not to use - that is a race for the bottom.

Re:How about Android apps ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043207)

The granularity of the Android permission system isn't that great. For instance, there is no way to restrict internet access so that an app can only contact certain sites, and you can not grant an app a subset of the requested permissions, e.g. if you do not want to use the camera functionality of an app, or want to explicitly confirm every time an app is allowed to send an SMS. Perfectly innoccuous apps end up asking for very broad permissions to perform their function, so malicious apps don't stick out at all.
Of course, too much security and transparency here would be problem for Google, because if customers had the choice many of them would use it to disable and avoid ads and data mining.

Re:How about Android apps ? (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043821)

On Andoid : An app that wants too many permissions with no obvious reason does not get installed by me ....

on iPhone you don't know... so just have to trust Apple, apparently this trust is misplaced

Re:How about Android apps ? (2)

CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042297)

Anyone has done any research on Android apps, on the same topic ?

Actually, very few leak details. Android applications have to ask permissions to get access to the internet or your personal details.

Nice try, what about all the apps that Google removed from the marketplace exactly because they leaked details to the developer (aka Trojans)? What about those in the open markets?

Re:How about Android apps ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042935)

What about all the apps from TFA that make it into supposedly "vetted" App Store?

Whenever a story about such program on Android pops up, Apple fanboys come out with "Ha-ha! See, you need walled garden! Apple is superior." Hope this will open their eyes to the fact Apple doesn't care about much more than "Starts up; Does something useful; Follows basic desgn guidelines".

Re:How about Android apps ? (1)

MogNuts (97512) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043789)

100% wrong and false. Don't spread FUD.

Every time I see an article with this, I laugh. Why? Because it's trojans found in 3rd part markets. NOT the official Android Market. It's hilarious because it's click spam. The title always includes malware without the 3rd party tag. You click on the article, then it's some BS market for devices in China.

I blame the media for half of it, and FUD spreaders like you for the other half.

Re:How about Android apps ? (3)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043913)

So now you know what it's like whenever an Apple article is posted. A torrent of misinformation and frothing bias, mixed in with a little fact, often twisted around to ridiculous extremes.

Re:How about Android apps ? (4, Informative)

jschrod (172610) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042325)

I can't count the amount of Android apps that I didn't install because they want to have r/w access to my contacts, even though they obviously don't need it for their functionality.

There are also too many apps that demand an Internet connectivity where I ask myself why. Or I had to deinstall apps where the background process keeps downloading data all the time that I only need on a holiday, but not now; and I found no way of disabling the background process short of deinstallation (without rooting the phone, then means are available).

So I'd say, Android has it's similar share of problems.

Re:How about Android apps ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042541)

Most of the apps that require internet access without the need for it are supported by adverts.
Every platform has the problems though - Android is just better suited to deal with them because of the permissions system.

Remember - Apple doesn't have access to app source code. They can run sniffers and whatnot, but they can't see exactly what the app is doing.

Re:How about Android apps ? (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042761)

Neither do the researches, and they still found it. Excuses, excuses.

Re:How about Android apps ? (5, Interesting)

lordbah (2498352) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043359)

I've tried to discuss the permissions they require with some Android app makers but I've never gotten anywhere. It usually goes something like this:

I inquire as to why an article reading app would need permission to use my camera. They say the app has a function to take pictures and submit them. I say I don't currently have any interest in doing that - can't they have a base app which doesn't require that permission, and then for those who want to do something like that, have an add-on app which does require that permission? They tell me that Android permissions don't work that way. I tell them that I won't be installing their app.

or

I ask why a game wants access to my contact list and permission to make phone calls. They tell me it's just for a "friends" function, and they only want to read my phone's ID, they promise they would never do anything unwanted. I say I don't trust you that much yet, can't you have a version which doesn't require those permissions, and over time maybe I will come to trust you and then I can install the full version? They tell me that Android permissions don't work that way.

or

I ask why a streaming music app would need permission to "send email without my knowledge" or access my calendar. They say the app has the ability to share stations with my friends, "entirely under your (my) control", and display ads with a button which can add an event (concert presumably) to my calendar. I ask why then they would need to be able to do these things "*without my knowledge*". They say thank you, come again. I say I won't be installing your app then.

So I would say the permissions are nice in theory but in practice many app developers are not willing to finely tune them and either unwilling or unable because of (they claim) platform restrictions to provide variants of the app with different functionality and different permission requirements.

I have no experience with iOS so I can't say anything about that.

Re:How about Android apps ? (1)

SwedishPenguin (1035756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043141)

IMO, the problem is that it's not specific enough though, you have to choose between allowing access to the Internet or not, it would be nice if it could request access to a few specific domains for instance, that way if the primary purpose of the app is to show me when the next train arrives for instance, I can be sure that it only ever contacts the transit provider and not some obscure server where it can upload any information it gains access to.

Re:How about Android apps ? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043201)

Do you have anything to actually back that up? Because from my experience of Android virtually all apps ask for more permissions than they should actually need so who knows what they're doing with that data. Given how many times Malware had to be removed from the market I'd say there's a good chance that, on average, Android developers have lower morals which is no surprise given that their customer base is less likely to pay for things.

Re:Profit. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39041685)

I guess the same could be said about "stealing your data".

Re:Profit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39041687)

To be fair, you cannot conclude that they're the *same* person just because they both go under the pseudonym "anonymous coward". For example, I'm also posting under that name, yet I am a different person.

Re:Profit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39041763)

Holy cow! Schrodinger is posting on Slashdot!

Re:Profit. (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042017)

Yo dawg, I heard you liked AC posts, so I put an AC post in your AC post, so you could post AC while you post AC!

Re:Profit. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042215)

No, I'm SPARTACUS!

Hmm, what? Oh, sorry, wrong thread.

Re:Profit. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39041719)

Don't be obtuse. Whatever your stance on obtaining a copy of a more or less freely available* item of media, it's completely different from obtaining data about an individual without their consent. One is a civil issue dependent on the current legal and moral standings of the notion of copyright (which is far from universal or constant), the other is a privacy issue.

*as in, available to anyone willing to pay

Re:Profit. (1)

SiMac (409541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042261)

Don't be obtuse. Whatever your stance on obtaining a copy of a more or less freely available* item of media, it's completely different from obtaining data about an individual without their consent.

I completely agree, but I also think that obtaining data about an individual without their consent is completely different from theft, especially when that data comes in the form of a device ID, which is not really about an individual, but about a device that the individual owns.

Re:Profit. (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042765)

"Device ID"? This discussion is about contact lists...

Re:Profit. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39041755)

Arguably, they're stealing your privacy -- or at least stripping you of it.

The same is not always true with a movie: I'm not depriving them of the movie, or even likely to spoil it for anyone else, and I'm not depriving them of profits they would otherwise have had I paid for the movie (simply because I will not buy a movie). (I do, however, go to many movies when they hit the cheap theater in town. Mostly I like the popcorn. That shit costs twice what the movie ticket costs, though.)

Re:Profit. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39041799)

But you are clearly stripping them of their RIGHT to control COPYing.

Re:Profit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39041873)

Nope. If they were stripped of that right, they wouldn't be able to sue you.

Re:Profit. (2, Interesting)

fightinfilipino (1449273) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041955)

and exactly what data do you have showing 1) that these groups are the same and 2) that people "claim that pirating movies isn't stealing"?

quit it with the troll bait.

what's really problematic is not whether there are legit uses for the data, but that the app developers aren't up front about data being shared at all.

Re:Profit. (4, Insightful)

Calos (2281322) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041967)

I couldn't decide whether to mod you 'Overrated' (because I think you might actually believe what you're saying and are therefore not a Troll or Flamebait) or 'Funny' (because I can't figure out how exactly you're equating the two and it may well be a joke).

So, instead, you get this reply.

Now, understand that this doesn't come from someone who "claim(s) that pirating movies isn't stealing," though I do believe in the right to privacy. Maybe because of that, I don't see your insight into the matter (but apparently as you don't believe both, maybe you don't either). But I'm curious about why you see these things as the same, and why you think that there is an apparently significant intersection between the group that considers downloading movies not to be stealing and the group interested in privacy.

You imply that a reproductions of the Mona Lisa and the details of your life, financial situation, activities, interests, online pseudonyms, and whereabouts are the same. Either you believe that I should be able to search for 'SiMac' on, say, the Pirate Bay and download this information same as I would a movie, or you don't. Which is it?

Because even though I don't think that people should 'pirate' movies and I think I should have a right to privacy - I wouldn't equate the two. Why do you?

Re:Profit. (1, Flamebait)

SiMac (409541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042249)

I'm not trying to equate invasion of privacy with piracy. They aren't the same thing, and I don't think they are.

I'm asking why many people make the (correct, in my view) observation that piracy isn't stealing, but then make the same logical fallacy when it comes to privacy.

In particular, I think it's absurd that GP thinks that submitting the device ID, which isn't much more personally identifying than an IP address, is theft.

Because there isn't a logical fallacy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043005)

Works for sale under copyright (or otherwise available to the public and controlled by copyright) are not private. My contact details are. After all, you do NOT get copyright on your contact details, do you.

Therefore there is no logical fallacy in decrying privacy violation but decrying piracy's mischaracterisations by the content industry.

There's also the little fact that piracy isn't stealing, so even if you want even stronger copyright, you will only be honest if you refute the statement that piracy is stealing.

Two reasons why there is no logical problem.

A third reason is that none of these, either your misrepresentations, or the facts, are logical fallacies. I would suggest you get a dictionary.

Re:Profit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042027)

Why is it that the same people who claim that pirating movies isn't stealing claim that copying your data is?

Just FYI, anybody can post as AC, it's not a regular user. Assuming all the posts by "AC" are the same person just makes you look like a moron.

Re:Profit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042237)

Do you really think I don't know this? My UID is how many years old?

Re:Profit. (1)

meowris (1988866) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041783)

Might be irrelevant: Just reminds of how some apps have iAPs with ridiculous price tags.

Getting device identifier != "stealing your data" (4, Insightful)

sarysa (1089739) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041825)

I know that there is a considerable off-grid contingent on /., but I don't get why people use getting unique device identifier (UDID) as an example of stealing user data. It isn't hacking or anything -- it's a public API usable by any app writer. If it weren't acceptable to use, Apple wouldn't allow apps which access the UDID onto their store.

There are a large number of practical applications for the UDID, ranging from the more user friendly uses such as automatic backup of app-specific data (i.e. game save), to mutually beneficial things like incentivization schemes, to features less popular to the user but necessary to make free content financially viable, i.e. targeted advertising.

Whenever I rail against Apple around here, people always bring up the concept that most people just want their device to be an applicance, and don't want to care about the internals. This comes with said blissful ignorance. But those 20% of apps passing data back home aren't stealing anything -- they're just using another tool to profit in the modern mobile space. More than 99% of that 20% is sending no more than the UDID and data specific to the application itself. Stealing would be to somehow get the user's underlying iTunes account info and buying stuff with it. (though what Path was doing is a bit of a mess, heh...)

Re:Getting device identifier != "stealing your dat (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042561)

My biggest problem with it is that it isn't generally made clear to the user unless they go looking. It probably say something vague about sending some identifying data back deep in the EULA somewhere but IMHO companies should be much more up-front about what they are doing.

In particular instead of saying apps are "free" they should say "advertising supported" or "user tracking supported". As well as permission information the market/app store should say "tracks your device and app usage".

Re: Unique device identifier (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043177)

How about we rephrase it as "Getting your name"?

Maybe my betters know why it needs to be a Unique Device ID, but the privacy problems are growing because Unique ID Data all link to itself and it's only smoke and mirrors keeping it all from crashing in. Look at the mess the Social Security Number is in. "For your security, let's have the Last 4 of your Social and thanks to Facebook, your Mother's Maiden Name."

So somewhere either now or later, someone will have a database of phone Unique Device ID's to Names. And oh yes, some of these programs are meddling with contact data too.

So why isn't it just enough for a phone to say "Hi, I'm an Apple iPhone, there are many like me but this one is his"?

Re:Getting device identifier != "stealing your dat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043493)

Except for the targetted ads, all of these use cases could be satisfied with a unique per-app user ID. e.g. The OS could create a hash of the UDID and the app name and give that to the app.

The question is not "is the feature useful?" The question is "given a spectrum of possible implementations, why is the most privacy-invading always chosen?"

Re:Getting device identifier != "stealing your dat (2)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043735)

Allowing people to build huge databases of devices with unique IDs is not a good idea. This is just CPU ID all over again. It takes control over a user's privacy away from the user.

I'm fine with an API that assigns an app a unique ID on a particular phone, and which gives the user the ability to reset it to a new unique ID at any time, or force it to be a value of their own choosing. Oh, and two apps on the same phone get different IDs, and if you uninstall/reinstall the ID changes again. That makes the unique ID more like a session cookie, which I can see as having value for network-enabled apps.

Re:Profit. (0)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042045)

no, in other words, iphones are gay.

is anonymous ddos'ing hotmail atm?

Re:Profit. (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043417)

Yep, not surprised one bit. This is part of the reason I use FOSS apps wherever possible.

And this is a big part of the motivation to "appify" everything - to break the inherent sandboxing ability of a browser, to get direct access to all your personal data.

Re:Profit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043867)

I am an independent developer with a few apps the App Store.

A couple of years ago I spoke with a guy who owns his own marketing firm, he started bragging about the amount of money that he has been able to receive for passing phone lists on to third parties (multi level marketers I think they are called?). When he found out that it was possible to gather tons of phone numbers, and the size of my user base he was practically begging me to pass him phone number lists. I refused.

I treat my app users the same way I want to be treated when I use an app. I have no issue with ads, but I think it is pretty crappy to pass phone numbers / addresses back to your servers (unless you really need it, but I doubt you really do as some type of hash might work) so that you can make a crap load of easy money.

Anyway, this research really makes a lot of sense, given the amount of money that is at stake from the number of people who download apps from the Apple App store.

Oh well, I guess I could make some sarcastic comment, but I'm too depressed and have to get back to work now. :(

Re:Profit. (1)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043931)

Lots of stuff in Cydia isn't free. In fact some of it is pretty expensive.

Walled Garden not so secure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39041561)

Ha Ha ha, too funny. get an Android phone...

Re:Walled Garden not so secure (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043487)

I hate Apple as much as the next non-fanboy but I don't expect the official Android app store to be much better. They don't do code reviews or black-box testing either, they've only recently started doing AV scans.

Data wants to be free (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041565)

Clearly, there seems to be a need for a privacy firewall, that will filter all data on a computer system, somewhat like the military 'data-diodes'.

Re:Data wants to be free (3, Interesting)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041619)

Or atleast a virtual "profile" with random data in it, and while launching apps, you should be able to choose which data you want to give it access to

Re:Data wants to be free (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39041801)

They should develop some sort of mechanism so that when you install a new app, it tells you what data and services on the device the program will have access to, and then you can decide whether freecell really needs access to your email or not.

It's a shame nobody ever thought of that before... ;-)

Re:Data wants to be free (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041807)

Well, thats the current system, but add an option to redirect certain permissions to a set of dummy data and you are better secured (and its more convenient).

Re:Data wants to be free (3, Insightful)

Calos (2281322) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041997)

And also completely defeating the purpose of the current system, disrupting the entire ecosystem. There's a chain, here: the app developers include these permissions so that they can profit from providing a free-to-download-app by serving ads, the ads paid for by those believing that they're targeting ads to those most likely to buy their product/service. If the users disrupt the data stream with 'dummy' data, the ad providers don't know how well they're targeting the ads, and the value to the ad purchasers diminishes.

Not that I don't agree (and use software which lets me do the same on an Android phone) but the implications, when applied globally, greatly change the landscape.

Re:Data wants to be free (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042889)

targeted ads yea right.

according to google I live in eastern europe. I live in teh USA.

If they can't even get my IP right for location then what the fuck are they targeting.

 

Re:Data wants to be free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042963)

Since when tracking the user is the unalienable right of ad provider?

All the old media ad companies made profit somehow without data on specific viewers, so this will be just returning to old ways.

Re:Data wants to be free (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043599)

What in the hell gave you that idea? Magazines, radio stations, and TV stations have collected demographic information on their consumers since these media came around. And they've done so specifically in order to be able to demonstrate value to advertisers.

Re:Data wants to be free (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042149)

Indeed a shame.
All we have now is a system where you can either give freecell access to resources it doesn't need or not install freecell at all.
A system where you can block access to email but allow access to the resources it does need would be great.

Re:Data wants to be free (1)

mrvan (973822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042265)

To combine the ideas of two posters above, what is needed is:

  • Split personal information in 'private' and 'public' info. For example, your facebook friends are (I think?) public, while the email addresses and mobile numbers of your contacts are generally private. There should be sane default settings that can be altered.
  • Allow any apps that ask for permission to see personal information X three choices: allow, allow public only, deny. The app should not be able to see the difference between allow and allow public only, it just gets less info. The email address and phone number of the default contacts (customer service, voicemail etc) will be public, so the app will generally get some email addresses to send spam to if that's what it does.
  • Make it easy for apps to run with minimum privileges. For example, if I would creata an agenda app that allows the user to email directly to someone attending a meeting, I really don't need to either see emails or control the email app. What is needed is an API function "email this person", which would open an email editor with the email address of the person (which is never given to 'my' app). Same for calling people. In this way, apps can give rich features while using only 'public' personal information. Note: I don't know whether these things are possible atm, I'm a phone user, not a (phone) developer.
  • Finally, it should be possible to limit the 'requires internet access ' to the domain the app came from ('a la java'). Again, the app should not see this difference, just get connection refused on other addresses.

Anyway, I'm a user rather than a (phone) developer, and I guess a lot of people don't care so much about their private parts, but it seems that awareness is growing...

Its a matter of who does the verification (4, Insightful)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041583)

App store: Apple certifies app, people trust Apple, people download app, app creators can take advantage to get user data, unlikely to be caught
Cydia: No certification, people are more likely to look at what the app is doing(also because someone who uses Cydia has a higher probability of knowing how to look at it), app creators more careful to not get a bad reputation

Re:Its a matter of who does the verification (0)

EnempE (709151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041683)

Apple uploads your data to their servers all of the time. Maybe they don't see it as a leak, its a valid method of making an app commercially more feasible.

If apple starts selling marketing information those apps will be gone in a matter of minutes.


p.s. I have 3 macbooks, and iphone, ipod, itv, apple wifi router in my house and I love all of them, just in case you thought i was one of those spiteful anti apple trolls.

Re:Its a matter of who does the verification (1)

MogNuts (97512) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043479)

Exactly.

"B-b-but but Apple stuff doesn't get viruses/malware/trojans!"

Make no mistake, this is what trojans are and what they do. I wonder how many of those take more than just the unique ID (see path silently stealing customer address books). There was an article a while mentioning the amount.

I'm surprised the "carefully curated" meme gets passed along here at slashdot with so many people who should know better. And I love to see those knocking Android saying it has malware. Ever notice that those articles mention malware on a 3rd party market and NOT the official android market? In this case, with android mentioning permissions, it actually makes android MORE secure than the App Store.

I hope Google pre-emptively starts making ads that the App Store gets viruses before Apple starts another iOS doesn't get viruses meme.

android gets a bad rap (1)

StealthHunter (597677) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041603)

sure lookout and company find malware, google removes it, etc the android alternative markets can have loads of malware (percentage wise). but at least we are fairly aware of what's going on. the apple ecosystem is still a big black box where the nastiness is ignored and unknown. even the notion that apps are vetted is completely misleading - as shown by charlie miller in syscan. apple doesn't even release stats like what the market distribution is among the different iOS devices.

Methodology? (3, Interesting)

tartles (2540270) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041623)

I checked the source publication and the following paragraph describes how they chose the apps:

Since iTunes does not support direct searches for free ap- plications, we rely on apptrakr.com [2] to provide a contin- uously updated list of popular, free iOS applications. Once a new application is added to their listings, our system au- tomatically downloads the application via iTunes and de- crypts it. Subsequently, the application is analyzed with PiOS.

I didn't see anything that described how they chose the Cydia apps however. I bring this up because there are numerous very popular Cydia apps that are simply iOS tweaks that adjust a piece of the interface or something similar. These apps would intuitively be less likely to require any sort of user information at all, so I'm not sure how much I trust these results.

Re:Methodology? (1)

Calos (2281322) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042009)

Fair point, I guess the questions hinges on what constitutes an "app." To me, a UI modification or tweak isn't an app. Whether or not the 'researchers' believe the same is the question.

Re:Methodology? (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043009)

But a UI modification app, whether or not you think it is an app -- if it's something that you download, install, and run -- then it's something that has the potential to send private user data. Just because it's less likely to doesn't mean it shouldn't be examined or counted; that's like saying that Solitaire apps are less likely to use network traffic than Online Chat apps, and thus measuring them messes up the methodology. How about we just measure what is out there?

Malware vs. virii (2, Insightful)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041717)

This reminds me a bit of the early days of spyware and malware when anti-virus companies were behind the curve and tried to write off that since malware was typically installed with user consent, they weren't responsible for scanning, detecting, and removing it. Apple is doing the same, but without even saying it's not their responsibility. Instead, they keep giving consumers the false belief in the safety of the walled / curated garden. An oddity to be noted as well is that the Apple store has actually moved mainstream consumers farther into the reliance on the vendor for repairs. While most telcos will tell users to backup their data as best they can and perform a wipe on Android, most iPhone users I have supported have told me stories about waiting as much as a couple hours to get an Apple Geek to wipe their phone.

This is a nice companion piece from Forbes to the article on iOS crash rates versus Android.

On a sideways note, most /.ers realized long ago that as OSX continues to increase in market share, they will become the target for virus writers. I sincerely doubt Apple's sandbox for apps will do much to stop them. If anything, the sandbox makes it harder to find a well concieved malicious program.

Re:Malware vs. virii (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041895)

This reminds me a bit of the early days of spyware and malware when anti-virus companies were behind the curve and tried to write off that since malware was typically installed with user consent, they weren't responsible for scanning, detecting, and removing it. Apple is doing the same, but without even saying it's not their responsibility. Instead, they keep giving consumers the false belief in the safety of the walled / curated garden.

This isn't entirely accurate. Apple have taken responibilty for scanning, detecting and removing malware except that they aren't doing a very good job of it.

I sincerely doubt Apple's sandbox for apps will do much to stop them. If anything, the sandbox makes it harder to find a well concieved malicious program.

This, any sysadmin with a basic idea of security knows that a gateway, no matter how good will never protect internal machines. Internal devices need individual security. Plus the hardware similarities of iDevices will work against them. Find an exploit in a driver for one Iphone, you have an exploit for all of them.

Hmmm... So far so dodgy... (2)

Petersko (564140) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041735)

I hope the programmers among us actually read some of this study before chiming in based on it's veracity... I'm just a few pages in and alarm bells are going off all over the place.

Walled gardens (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39041785)

Does this invalidate some of the claims about Apple just protecting its users by restricting their freedom?

Re:Walled gardens (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043529)

I think the first tethering app disguised as a flashlight app did that, doesn't seem to have dissuaded the sheep.

Data Privacy? What about that? (4, Insightful)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041789)

You know MobileMe / iCloud of course: knowing an App store email address and its password, gives you access to the following: where is the iPhone/user at anytime, contacts list, emails ... among others. Pretty important data.
So, in the subway/room... you enter your password to download an App, and someone may see and remember the credentials. It may happen, and? Gmail, for instance, allows you to get the list of the recent accesses to your account.
Apple App Store, MobileMe? Nothing. There is absolutely no way to determine if someone else accesses your account unless the other guy changes/order something. The only solution according to Apple is "Change your password". That case happened to a friend of mine who is not much in IT, and got suspicious after a few coincidences of interest. Considering the weight of iCloud and MobileMe, some more data protection is needed from Apple.

Re:Data Privacy? What about that? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042007)

Gmail, bottom right of the screen, there's account activity. Shows client type and ip. Too bad there isn't a Google wide account activity list.

First thing.. (5, Informative)

geogob (569250) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041859)

...I did after jailbreaking my iphone was to install a firewall. The experience was quite interesting, allowing me to see exactly which apps tried to contact remote sites and which sites they attempted to contact. And, to my knowledge, the only external sites contacted by unofficial apps I've seen were related to ad content.

Access to private data on outside of the apps (calendar, contacts, etc.) should be controllable on an per app basis, just like with location service. And each app accessing this data should be carefully reverse engineered and analyzed to ensure it is safe.

Re:First thing.. (2, Insightful)

mjwx (966435) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042035)

Access to private data on outside of the apps (calendar, contacts, etc.) should be controllable on an per app basis, just like with location service.

You mean the way Android does it? By listing the permissions the application has asked for when you install it.

It wouldn't be the first thing they slavishly copied from Android (*cough*notification menu*cough*)

And each app accessing this data should be carefully reverse engineered and analyzed to ensure it is safe.

Good luck with that.

Companies will object to their proprietary code and secrets being examined, users will scream until they get their fart apps.

Re:First thing.. (1)

geogob (569250) | more than 2 years ago | (#39042221)

You mean the way Android does it? By listing the permissions the application has asked for when you install it.

It wouldn't be the first thing they slavishly copied from Android (*cough*notification menu*cough*)

First, I don't think it's anyway relevant who did it before. And if someone did it and it worked well, than I sure do hope so they will copy it.
I'm really getting tired to read comments like these parallel to comments against intellectual property, patent trolling, etc.

Companies will object to their proprietary code and secrets being examined, users will scream until they get their fart apps.

You don't have to have access to the code to reverse engineer a program. In fact, if you have access to the source code, I wouldn't call it reverse engineering at all. Reverse engineering what a program does, in the context of network communications, is fairly easy, especially if you can run the app in a sandbox inspecting all its actions. Where you get into problems is if the data is encrypted - you see that the app is sending data, but you can't easily verify what the data is. Of course, if a ping pong game sends encrypted data to some random server in Russia, it would get quite fast on my suspicious app list.

Good luck with that.

I don't think asking their permission is part of the plan.

Re:First thing.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043461)

First, I think he mentions the android thing simply because iSheep scream bloody murder if somebody dare copy Apple, and also because when Apple does something, even if somebody else did it before, it's "innovative".

Second. Seriously, reverse engineer every app? Clearly you have no idea what you're talking about. I've been working on reverse engineering an application which we have fully licensed access to the source code. They just didn't document it worth a damn. It's taken two of us two months to do it, and we're only almost done now. Note, I said ONE application. What you've described is about the furthest thing from easy as you could do. It's easy to black box test "I click this, and this happens", but a very different thing to black box test to find out everything a program does when there aren't A/V clues to let you know something happened. Hell, sometime for giggles, turn on wireshark and try to figure out what a chat client is doing via network sniffing. You know exactly what it's trying to do, still doesn't make it easy.

Well, did you accept the EULA? (5, Informative)

Kaenneth (82978) | more than 2 years ago | (#39041971)

I actually read the EULA for the recent game "Civilization V", and it said they could take your contacts list, and share/sell it.
Fortunently Valve/Steam was nice enough to give a refund before I installed it when I complained about it "As a one-time courtesy" not as policy, I'm sad to say.
Particularly since the EULA wasn't available for viewing until after purchase.
http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2109777 [steampowered.com]

Valve were not nice. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043197)

Since the EULA was refused, the contract was refused. Therefore you must be allowed to get your money back. ESPECIALLY when the DRM requires activation. For that to be of any point whatsoever, this has to be confirmed as proof you haven't used the game at all. If it isn't, because they know it is or will be cracked, then DRM has no point at all except as another excuse for expensive games and control.

And you won't find that on any marketing blurb...

Therefore AS A MATTER OF POLICY they have to refund you.

IF they then say you have not bought the license, you bought the game which you still have, then they're already lost: they keep whining about how you bought the license when it suits them. In fact the hordes of Fluffers For Steam (tm) will INSIST that you bought a license, not the game.

Re:Well, did you accept the EULA? (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043571)

Some PC games will scrape your browser history, such as NFS:Shift. They'll actually use it to adjust the in-game advertising.

shNit!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042115)

The most vibrant people playing can Darren Reed, which AAsholes, as they

Mike's Madness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042201)

When is this app going to be available?

or does UCSB no longer stand for You Can Study Buzzed?

Wait, what? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042339)

The whole idea of the device UUID is to create a primary key for users without actually using any of their personal information. So what if someone is storing your UUID? That's the whole point!

If you give them your name and email and bank account information, and they tie that in with your UUID, then you have bigger problems than your UUID being "uploaded".

Bullshit (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042467)

"21 percent of official App Store apps uploaded the user's Unique Device Identifier"

In iOS 5.x it's impossible to read out the UDID.
Everybody still on 4.x should ask himself: Why?

Re:Bullshit (1)

coinreturn (617535) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043389)

In addition, the UDID is not a big threat in terms of "personal data." It is nothing more than a serial number of the device. Big-fucking-whoop. So you got my serial number; I couldn't care less. The number leaking actual personal data is more like 0.0000001%.

Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39042679)

It's shocking that people who are interested in harvesting user data would target the larger market of the two? Why would they target the users of Cydia, all of whom have at least the tech savvy to value and accomplish a jail break, over the teaming, unwashed masses lining up at the App Store?

Next you'll tell me that Macs have so few viruses because they are super secure, and not because they are so greatly outnumbered by Windows machines...

Great analysis, terrible reporting (1)

laird (2705) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043307)

The analysis was great. They used some very clever techniques, and wrote it up thoroughly.

The reporting is absurdly overhyped, with statements like "one in five of the free apps in Apple's app store upload private data back to the apps' creators " Almost all of the "privacy leaking" was simply apps capturing device ID's (UDID), which is routine piece of data collected for issue resolution, and isn't "privacy" any more than a web server logging your IP address is violating your privacy. If you're worried about that, you probably should change your IP address every day, and disable browser cookies. A few apps ask for location data (which requires user acceptance) and send it to the server, which is under user control so isn't "leaking".

The only "bad" apps that they found were a "few cases in which the address book, the browser history, and the photo gallery is leaked." Those are (at least potentially) evil. They found 5 in iUS and 4 in Cydia, which was well under 1% of the apps checked. Those apps should be "outed" so that people can at least make an informed decision about whether there's a good need for that kind of data access.

Re:Great analysis, terrible reporting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39043393)

I'm not so sure about UDID giving away no more privacy than IP.

IP doesn't identify a single device, thanks to NATs and dynamic pools and conversely same device isn't bound to single IP, it's many to many relation. To track someone specific you need more than his IP, like a cookie, for example. And many indeed disable browser cookies for this very reason, just as you propose.

UDID, on the other hand, is a strict one to one relation, it's unchangeable, linked to single device and can't be disabled. UDID is much better suitable for tracking and collating info across different sources. Add a little bit more, and you're tracking a user even after a new phone purchase.

Re:Great analysis, terrible reporting (1)

coinreturn (617535) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043407)

I wish I had mod points to bump you up. The UDID is nothing more than a device serial number. That is not personal data. Of course all the haters will scream, "See, Apple is evil!" Over-hyped nonsense.

from another poster (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043531)

I'm not so sure about UDID giving away no more privacy than IP.

IP doesn't identify a single device, thanks to NATs and dynamic pools and conversely same device isn't bound to single IP, it's many to many relation. To track someone specific you need more than his IP, like a cookie, for example. And many indeed disable browser cookies for this very reason, just as you propose.

UDID, on the other hand, is a strict one to one relation, it's unchangeable, linked to single device and can't be disabled. UDID is much better suitable for tracking and collating info across different sources. Add a little bit more, and you're tracking a user even after a new phone purchase.

Re:from another poster (1)

coinreturn (617535) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043629)

I'm not so sure about UDID giving away no more privacy than IP.

IP doesn't identify a single device, thanks to NATs and dynamic pools and conversely same device isn't bound to single IP, it's many to many relation. To track someone specific you need more than his IP, like a cookie, for example. And many indeed disable browser cookies for this very reason, just as you propose.

UDID, on the other hand, is a strict one to one relation, it's unchangeable, linked to single device and can't be disabled. UDID is much better suitable for tracking and collating info across different sources. Add a little bit more, and you're tracking a user even after a new phone purchase.

If only a UDID is extracted, you are tracking a SERIAL NUMBER only - not a person.

Re:from another poster (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043699)

if you track a 'serial number' of a device enough, you can easily map the tracked to particular persons after you amass a certain size of data. this is what websites are doing.

Re:Great analysis, terrible reporting (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043841)

My Address Book information is personal data. This is less an Apple problem than an Evil Developer problem: they're the ones stealing contacts without asking.

Hell, why does Angry Birds need my Location Services info?

Re:Great analysis, terrible reporting (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043651)

Almost all of the "privacy leaking" was simply apps capturing device ID's (UDID), which is routine piece of data collected for issue resolution, and isn't "privacy" any more than a web server logging your IP address is violating your privacy.

Bad analogy, an IP only identifies a particular internet connection, and if you have a dynamic IP that doesn't even mean much. The iShiny's UUID is more like the mobo serial number on a PC.

And see (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39043525)

how badly the european style privacy and 'forget me' laws were necessary.

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