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Carrier IQ Rootkit Logs Everything on Millions of Phones

Dec 01, 20113 mins
Data and Information SecurityMobile SecurityNokia

Millions of phones may be at risk from a secret data logging software that's on nearly every Android, Blackberry, and Nokia phone out there.

If you use an Android, BlackBerry, or Nokia smartphone then you may be at risk of being illegally wire tapped by Carrier IQ–a provider of performance monitoring software for Smart Phones.


Earlier this month Trevor Eckhart announced that he found software, made by Carrier IQ, that may be logging your every move on your mobile phone and he called it a “rootkit“–a software that hides itself while utilizing privileged access like watching your every move. Carrier IQ didn’t take too kindly to this accusation and responded aggressively with a Cease and Desist Letter and denied this accusation. However, to further back his accusation, Eckhart released a video with undisputable proof.

In the video Eckhart navigates to a list of running applications on his phone and he found that the application IQRD–made by Carrier IQ–was not shown, however, when searching all of the applications on the device Eckhart found that IQRD had the option to force stop it, therefore, it must be running. However, when he tried to stop the application, the force stop function does absolutely nothing. Additionally, this application always runs when the device is started.

After connecting his HTC device to his computer he found that IQRD is secretly Key logging every single button that he clicks on the phone, even the touch screen number pad. IQRD is also shown to be logging text messages.

If you think that it couldn’t possibly get any more invasive, well, it does! In the video, Eckhart clearly shows that Carrier IQ is also logging web searches. While this doesn’t sound all that bad by itself, what’s creepy about it is that Carrier IQ is logging what happens during an HTTPS connection which is suppose to be encrypted information. Additionally, it can do this over a Wi-Fi connection with no 3G; so even if your phone service is disconnected IQRD still logs the information.

What’s more, Wired says that the application “cannot be turned off rooting the phone and replacing the operating system.”

While Eckhart tested his accusation on an HTC device it is likely that Carrier IQ is logging information on millions of more devices. According to Carrier IQ (pdf)”Carrier IQ’s Mobile Intelligence platform is currently deployed with more than 150 million devices worldwide.”

While Carrier IQ has backed off and apologized, due to pressure from the Electronics Frontier Foundation (EFF), for its aggressive legal action against Eckhart, this isn’t the end of the story for Carrier IQ. Paul Ohm, a former Justice Department prosecuter and professor at the University of Colorado Law School, told Forbes that this isn’t just creepy, but it’s also likely grounds for a class action lawsuit against a federal wiretapping law.

Unfortunately, this software is a real pain to remove. If you don’t want to be tracked and your device has Carrier IQ on it then your only option may be to erase and reinstall your OS. Make sure to check out the video to see what’s under the hood of this data logging software.


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