Carrier IQ’s Stealth Logging Software Discovered On Android, BlackBerry And Nokia Phones; References Also Found In iOS

Carrier IQ logo

Few days back, Trevor Eckhart of Connecticut revealed that many Android, BlackBerry and Nokia phones come bundled with software called IQRD developed by a company called Carrier IQ that secretly logs everything a user does on the mobile phone.

The creepy thing is that Eckhart found the software logging even personal information such as text messages and web searches, which has raised serious privacy concerns.

Carrier IQ on it’s part denies its software logs keystrokes and claims that their software is “gathering information off the handset to understand the mobile-user experience, where phone calls are dropped, where signal quality is poor, why applications crash and battery life.” However, a video published by Eckhart clearly undercuts that claim.

PC World reports:

After connecting his HTC device to his computer, Trevor found that IQRD is secretly logging every single button that he taps on the phone–even on the touchscreen number pad. IQRD is also shown to be logging text messages.

In the video, Eckhart shows that Carrier IQ is also logging Web searches. While this doesn’t sound all that bad by itself, it suggests that Carrier IQ is logging what happens during an HTTPS connection which is supposed to be encrypted information. Additionally, it can do this over a Wi-Fi connection with no 3G, so even if your phone service is disconnected, IQRD still logs the information.

Wired reports that Carrier IQ apparently threatened to sue Eckhart but backed down when Electronic Frontier Foundation backed his findings. Forbes believes that the company may have violated wiretapping laws.

According to Eckhart, it is not possible for a user to turn off the logging on the Android based HTC smartphone.

Interestingly, iPhone developer and hacker – chpwn reports that he has also found references of Carrier IQ’s software in Apple’s iOS, but it seems to be logging information related to device’s performance and does not seem to have access to capture information such as text messages and Web searches like seen on the HTC smartphone.

Carrier IQ is run from a number of different daemons, depending on the firmware version of the device: (You can view this on a jailbroken iPhone with iFile or extract it from a software update bundle if you want to check the files out yourself.)

  • iOS 3: /usr/bin/IQAgent
  • iOS 4 and 5: /usr/bin/awd_ice2 or /usr/bin/awd_ice3

chpwn concludes:

Importantly, it does not appear the daemon has any access or communication with the UI layer, where text entry is done. I am reasonably sure it has no access to typed text, web history, passwords, browsing history, or text messages, and as such is not sending any of this data remotely.

The good news is that iPhone users can choose to disable the logging by simply going to Settings -> General -> About -> Diagnostics & Usage -> Don’t Send.

While we are fine with carriers collecting information related device’s performance, Carrier IQ seems to have crossed the line by even recording key strokes on the mobile phone.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

[via Trevor Eckhart’s blog, chpwn’s blog]

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  • Craig

    Yet android fanboys will continue to praise thri os and pretend nothing wrong is happening. Android is such a joke.

    • Ed

      Have you ever even used android? I’ve used both and while iOS is hands down the best when jailbroken it is also nothing without it. Android is a great platform that will soon resolve all these issues and will outperform iOS.

      • ron

        First of all this is just your opinion, and opinions are like assholes, everybody has one and they all stink. Actually I have used both. I develop apps for both. The latest android os I have used is honeycomb and in my opinion it sucks. No offense to those who praise Android but i found the os to have a terrible UI. In response to “Android is a great platform that will soon resolve all these issues and will outperform iOS.” – yes they probably will resolve this issue (only because they will have too) but as for outperforming iOS it is highly unlikely. Seeing that if not for iOS, the smartphone would still be as useful as they were back in 2006. Besides that as both OS’s grow they will both outperform the other. In the end the only winner is the user who will get to choose what they like.

  • So Craig the Iphone never tracked their users location history ?

  • Jed

    This has zero to do with so-called Android fanboys and EVERYTHING to do with illegal-sounding business practices by Carrier IQ. What really floors me is that the phone manufacturers don’t seem to care enough to fully vet their phones before they go to market. I’m happy to hear my iPhone is safe…for now.

  • 4s Owner

    Anti terrorism?

  • Learn the facts

    Apple was first once again and android is behind. For those who don’t know or remember IOS was first in tracking software of this type so android is still behind…

  • WHat facts

    Yes IOS was tracking user locations , but Carrier IQ in Android , Nokia etc has gone a step further tracking EVERYTHING ..theres a big difference to that of IOS , tracking from your text to encrypted browsing etc more privacy ..thats what happens when you open and OS to the world ..AKA android , with all that vulnerabilites in the OS , how wonder how many users sensitive information will know be exploited with this know fact !

  • fas

    Now wont a case be done against all!

  • Ryan Grill

    How can I disable it on 4.1 or 4.3.3; the instructions “Settings -> General -> About -> Diagnostics & Usage -> Don’t Send.” don’t work for me. Don’t see the Diagnostics & Usage option???

    • Ed

      To disable it hold power button down and slide to power off

    • shark

      I have a 3gs and firmware 4.3.3 and I dont see the diagnostics and usage button either and ive looked all over. So how do I disable it? Im not jailbroken.

  • MattB

    These Android vs. iOS conversations are great and all but what about the real issue? What course of action is being taken against Carrier IQ?

  • badapple

    On my iphone 3gs i see no option “Diagnostics & Usage”