You may have noticed reports in the news recently about some mystery software from a company called Carrier IQ loaded on your smart phone. The reports initially said that this software was a rootkit and was recording all of your personal information to be shared with your cell phone provider. It turns out however, that the issue isn’t quite as bad as we first thought:
The most serious charge against Carrier IQ, a venture capital-funded startup in Mountain View, Calif., that makes diagnostic software for carriers, has been that it records keystrokes and transmits them to carriers. … There’s zero evidence that Carrier IQ captured, recorded, or transmitted any keystrokes.
After several security researchers were able to deconstruct the software they discovered that it doesn’t really transmit the data anywhere. Carrier IQ does manufacture software that studies what you do on your mobile phones. This data helps the cell service providers optimize their networks. It helps make your phone service better. This is a commonly used tool that is in use on the Blackberry, Android and iOS platforms. This data is gathered on your phone and then sent to the provider in the event of a support issue:
The information is used to summarize how the device is working so carriers can improve their networks, he said. It also helps them when they’re forced to field calls from outraged customers wondering why their handset keeps crashing or runs out of battery life in a few hours.
The problem lies in the local storage of your usage history. Your cell phone provider already knows what you are doing on your phone. Your Facebook news, e-mails and Twitter posts are passing across their data networks, all of which are being logged. This software however, is logging this information locally and waiting on a prompt to upload it to the cell phone provider. What happens if your phone is stolen? All of your personal data is potentially in the hands of whoever has physical possession of your phone. However you look at it, your phone is probably better off without this software.
Listed below are a collection of links that should help with detecting whether or not your phone is running this software as well as how to disable or remove it. Even if this software is benign, it still looks like a rootkit, so it’s a good idea to get rid of it.
Apple stopped supporting this software in iOS version 5. Older versions should be updated soon to remove it as well. For now you can follow these directions: http://mashable.com/2011/12/02/iphone-diagnostic-data/.
Research In Motion denies use of Carrier IQ software on all of their phones.