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Nokia Wizard spells security issue

E-mail passwords magically grabbed

Application security programs and practises

The wizard used to configure e-mail access on the latest Nokia S60 devices is sending e-mail credentials to Nokia, via HTTP, even when the user is connecting to an unrelated mailserver.

The connection was spotted by the Mobilitics blog, who discovered that running the wizard on a Nokia 5800 results in a (secure) HTTP connection being made to Nokia's server, a connection containing the username and password - enough information for someone else to access the account - despite the fact that Nokia have no business with the information.

The latest S60 devices don't provide any other mechanism to set up an e-mail account, so anyone who would prefer to avoid the Finns having access to their mail needs to either run the wizard while in flight mode, or enter spurious details and amend them later, neither of which is exactly intuitive.

Nokia does need the account information for punters signed up to Nokia Messaging, a service which aggregates multiple e-mail accounts But most users want their handset to talk directly to their mail server, without Finland being involved at all. Once the account has been configured that's how it operates. The information is only shared by the wizard.

We spoke to Nokia about the issue, and the company admitted that "In some cases, the user's credentials are sent directly to the mail provider's server, but in other cases, they securely pass through the Nokia mail server, without actually being stored", though it's still not clear why they should pass through Nokia's servers at all. In fact it seems that this might not be the case much longer: "based on the feedback that we have received, we will look into the possibility of amending the on-device email set-up instructions to ensure that end-user information handling in our devices and services is accurate".

So the problem seems to be accidental rather than malicious, and should be fixed soon, but it's still concerning that hundreds of thousands of e-mail details have been passing though Nokia's servers for the last few months, and interesting to speculate how much bigger this story would be if Microsoft were guilty of the same thing. ®

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