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This tool demands access to YOUR ENTIRE DIGITAL LIFE. Is it from GCHQ? No - it's by IKEA

Order a flat-pack kitchen, surrender your HDD's contents

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

If the Target hack – along with all its predecessors – taught us anything, it's that the database isn't the vulnerability. It's the data that's the problem.

If you're collecting data, you're a target. That means you have to ask yourself, “do I need this?”

Yet in spite of frequent demonstrations that a determined attacker will gain access to private data – and in spite of privacy regulations in many jurisdictions which stipulate that companies shouldn't go fishing for data in case it's useful one day – examples abound of cavalier attitudes to data collection.

Take a look, for example, at this image I grabbed when I was looking over the IKEA Kitchen Planning tool:

IKEA kitchen planner wants to see it all

Oh, really, IKEA?

This, remember, is a kitchen planner: it lets you grab IKEA product images, slip them into place in your kitchen floor plan, and see what the result will do in 3D.

Yet for some reason, IKEA - or the developer it hired - thinks the kitchen planner needs very, very wide permissions before it will run.

Moreover, the warning wasn't raised by the kitchen planning tool. The Register only spotted it because Chrome raised the dialog. No such warning appeared when we accessed the same site on Firefox, for example.

Nor is there anything in the kitchen planner's license agreement (here) to warn of the permissions sought by the application.

IKEA's privacy policy says the company is, within Australia, bound by the National Privacy Principles, and that it “does not sell, rent or release information gathered on our website to any individuals, companies or groups.”

However, that doesn't necessary apply to partners – and the plug-in comes not from IKEA's site, but from 2020.net.

The latter's privacy policy doesn't mention the breadth of permissions sought by the IKEA kitchen planner.

It's quite likely, in fact, that neither IKEA nor its partner are aware, at a corporate level, that the application is so potentially intrusive. It's almost certain that the application doesn't take full advantage of the permissions it's seeking.

It's probable that the developer created the app with the widest possible permissions so it worked easily in the lab, and never went back and changed them to something appropriate for the Internet: I accept that.

It's also possible, however, that a developer who doesn't apply appropriate permissions also decided to test the app's data collection capabilities. Even if the ordinary user noticed the requested permissions, how would they test whether, in fact, the kitchen designer was benign?

If unnecessary data is collected, however, it's a honeypot.

In fairness IKEA isn't the only offender (and The Register did e-mail questions to the company, but has not yet received a response).

But the idea that “data is there to be collected”, in a world that's seen so many major compromises, has to be stamped out. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

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