Feeds

Software maker sorry for trying to silence security researcher

Withdraws legal threats over mobile 'rootkit' claims

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A Silicon Valley software maker has withdrawn legal threats against an Android developer who claimed the company's diagnostic application amounted to a rootkit that posed a privacy threat to millions of handset owners.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Mountain View, California-based Carrier IQ apologized to Trevor Eckhart for threatening to sue him for publishing training manuals he said supported his rootkit characterization. The about face came a few days after the Connecticut-based Android developer received legal support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which asserted his postings were protected by the US Constitution's First Amendment.

"Our action was misguided and we are deeply sorry for any concern or trouble that our letter may have caused Mr. Eckhart," the statement read. "We sincerely appreciate and respect EFF's work on his behalf, and share their commitment to protecting free speech in a rapidly changing technological world."

Eckhart's posting claimed that Carrier IQ software was able to log detailed information on millions of phones powered by Google's Android, Research in Motion's Blackberry, and Nokia operating systems. A user's GPS coordinates, key taps, and websites visited were just some of the details phone makers and carriers used the software to track, he claimed.

Eckhart also objected to the lack of disclosure given to handset owners that their devices contained the software. In some cases, he said, Carrier IQ versions were modified so phones showed no signs the software was installed and running. That led to claims Carrier IQ was no different than rootkits installed to secretly track and control devices.

Carrier IQ officials responded that the software didn't log keystrokes, track users' whereabouts or report on the content of emails or text messages at all. Rather, they said, the software helped network providers to diagnose a range of problems, including identifying causes of premature battery drainage, dropped calls, and other system problems.

In an email sent to The Register shortly after Carrier IQ dropped its claims, Eckhart held his ground.

"I stand by my statements still and hope that Carrier IQ will engage anyone who has questions with direct answers to facts posted," he wrote. "The community needs to know exactly what is recorded, who has access to it, and why we cant remove – especially from devices not under carriers contract."

He made no apologies.

"I saw something wrong, clearly logging data without user consent," he wrote. "Anything logging sensitive data should not be hidden and have clear opt-in guides. I was lucky to have the support of the EFF though who I cannot thank enough for this." ®

Follow @dangoodin001.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.