An Android app developer has published what he says is conclusive proof that millions of smartphones are secretly monitoring the key presses, geographic locations, and received messages of its users.
In a YouTube video posted on Monday, Trevor Eckhart showed how software from a Silicon Valley company known as Carrier IQ recorded in real time the keys he pressed into a stock EVO handset, which he had reset to factory settings just prior to the demonstration. Using a packet sniffer while his device was in airplane mode, he demonstrated how each numeric tap and every received text message is logged by the software.
Ironically, he says, the Carrier IQ software recorded the “hello world” dispatch even before it was displayed on his handset.
Eckhart then connected the device to a Wi-Fi network and pointed his browser at Google. Even though he denied the search giant's request that he share his physical location, the Carrier IQ software recorded it. The secret app then recorded the precise input of his search query – again, “hello world” – even though he typed it into a page that uses the SSL, or secure sockets layer, protocol to encrypt data sent between the device and the servers.
“We can see that Carrier IQ is querying these strings over my wireless network [with] no 3G connectivity and it is reading HTTPS,” the 25-year-old Eckhart says.
The video was posted four days after Carrier IQ withdrew legal threats against Eckhart for calling its software a “rootkit.” The Connecticut-based programmer said the characterization is accurate because the software is designed to obscure its presence by bypassing typical operating-system functions.