Google has had a pretty rough year so far with their Android mobile operating system. First there was the news that there were serious security flaws in the Android software, and then there was news that Android phones were needlessly tracking users. Google and Apple were both hit hard and were forced to explain to congress exactly what was going on, but it now seems that Google kept a rather large secret from congress and its users.
There is no doubt that Android has the biggest modding and hacking community out of all of the mobile platforms. The community mainly uses a forum called xda-developers to share their ideas, custom roms, and many other improvements that they have made to the operating system, but one user has come across a rather scary piece of code that is hidden deeply in the systems Kernel.
Trevor Eckhart, or TrevE to his friends on the forum has found some very malicious code lurking deep in the bootloader. The software he found is called Carrier IQ. Every device made by HTC, Samsung and many others all have this software, but what does it do?
Carrier IQ is designed to track literally everything that the end user does on their device. It runs silently in the background and creates logs about everything the user does, from browsing the web, to taking photos, the software can even track when the user touches the touch screen.
Cease and Desist
After Trevor Eckhart released his find into the forum, the Android community went crazy, and not long after his finds were published Mr. Eckhart received a cease and desist letter from Carrier IQ claiming that he was infringing on the copyright of the publicly available materials that he posted on the site. . Carrier IQ has requested that Trevor remove the post and replace it with a full retraction and issue the same retraction to the press. Now that’s a little scary.
TrevE is sticking to his guns though. The hacker is refusing to remove the post and has taken up legal counsel. His attorney states that he has broken no such laws under the fair use exemptions to copyright laws.
Phone Call for Google
In another twist, users have found out that Carrier IQ is located just four miles from Google’s main headquarters, leading many to believe that Google actually operates the company.
Carrier IQ has since released a press statement saying that the information that is tracked is not sold on to any third parties, and that the information gathered is used to do no more than improve consumer services.
At present there is no specific information on just how deep the tracking goes, but many believe this sinister piece of software is tracking everything, including camera use, microphone use, web use, app use, and GPS locations. Many also believe that personal information is being tracked and stored.
It will be interesting to see just where this goes in the coming weeks and months, but I would not be surprised if Google and Carrier IQ both receive a nice little phone call from the same panel that grilled them earlier on in the year.