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Hey, Glasshole: That cool app? It has turned you into a SPY DRONE

Google Glass spyware can use users as surveillance drones

Google Glass

Security researchers have created prototype Google Glass spyware that is capable of snooping on everything the user is looking at without tipping off victims that anything is amiss.

Mike Lady and Kim Paterson – graduate researchers at California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo – created an app that takes a picture every 10 seconds a Glass display is active – before uploading the information to a remote server. This all happens in the background without giving the wearer any indication that images from the hi-tech specs are being "live-streamed".

"The scary thing for us is that while it’s a policy that you can’t turn off the display when you use the camera, there’s nothing that actually prevents you from doing it,” Paterson told Forbes.

The prototype was written as a proof of concept designed to highlight security issues with the high-tech eyewear. In the experiment the snoopy code posed as a note-taking software package called Malnotes.

Similar tricks could be used to distribute a real Trojan. Victims would first have to be tricked into installing a dodgy app, of course. Lady and Paterson succeeded in uploading their dodgy app (which did more than it said on the tin) to the Google Play app store for Android, before Google was notified of its presence and a quick takedown applied. Forbes adds that the same trick would probably have failed on the more carefully curated MyGlass app store.

"Even Glassholes (as those who have adopted Google’s wearable technology are known) don’t deserve to be spied upon, and should have an expectation that proper security is in place to prevent abusive apps from performing actions that should be forbidden," writes security industry veteran Graham Cluley in a blog post. "If you do insist on wearing Google Glass, then please make sure that you have protected your devices using a passcode, and be careful about what apps you install on your devices from unofficial app stores."

Malicious software for Glass is not a virgin field for security research. For example, last year researchers at the mobile security firm Lookout showed how it might be possible to install malware or snooping on data feeds by tricking a user into simply looking at malicious QR codes.

Glass automatically processed QR codes present anywhere in photographs captured by the built-in camera. That meant barcode-like images could be put together that instructed the Glass hardware to connect to a rogue Wi-Fi network that snoops on connections made to the web, or tell its browser to visit a malicious website that exploits security holes in the gadget's Android operating system. Lookout reported the problem to Google before going public with the issue last July. ®

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