Thursday Dec 15th 2011
News Analysis: After repeatedly claiming that RIM does not authorize carriers to install Carrier IQ's tracking software on its BlackBerry devices and then learning that carriers did it anyway, RIM is telling users how to get rid of it.
Carrier IQ's mobile device monitoring software first came to everyone's
attention after a security researcher demonstrated how it logged everything
from text messages to locations on a Sprint Android phone, there was a lot of
consternation over which devices might actually be stealthily loaded with the
IQ has the ability to create software for virtually every mobile platform out
there except Windows Mobile 7. However, there were assurances that the software
on every phone, or even used by every carrier.
Wireless, for example, said it does not use Carrier IQ at all. AT&T and
T-Mobile confirmed that they do use the software. T-Mobile released a statement
that it only uses the software for improving call quality.
In Motion said it does not install Carrier IQ on any of its devices, and does
not authorize carriers to install it. The company also told eWEEK at the time that there have been
circumstances in the past where similar software was installed on its devices
and that it had helped users remove it.
week, however, a
leaked T-Mobile internal document revealed which phones include Carrier IQ
software. It turns out that T-Mobile installs Carrier IQ on three BlackBerry
devices in spite of RIM's policy that it should not be doing so. Those
BlackBerry devices in the memo are the new touch-screen Bold 9900, the Curve
9360 and the new full touch-screen Torch 9810. The document also shows that the
Carrier IQ software was installed on Android phones from T-Mobile.
Android devices are covered in the description furnished by
Trevor Eckhart in his Android Security Test. Eckhart also provides software
and instructions for removing Carrier IQ from Android phones, but the problem
is that you must "root" your phone and replace the operating system
to get rid of it.
description of the BlackBerry solution is less likely to cause problems, and
the company has provided instructions on getting rid of Carrier IQ from every
BlackBerry platform capable of supporting it.
senior RIM executive provided to eWEEK
the instructions for
removing the Carrier IQ software. BlackBerry users should look for an app
called "IQ Agent." Note that this procedure will work with any
third-party application on your BlackBerry device, including Carrier IQ.
means that if you travel someplace where the authorities routinely place
monitoring software on your BlackBerry, you can get that off too. This
procedure is also useful for killing that memory-hungry version of Solitaire
that causes problems when some other memory-intensive app runs and needs more
nice about the BlackBerry approach is that it's entirely supported by the
existing software management tools. All you have to do is locate the app and direct
the BlackBerry delete it. This makes sense. After all, RIM takes the security
of the BlackBerry very seriously. Allowing a piece of software to exist on its
devices that has the capability, whether it's used or not, to record
keystrokes, text messages and email as well as location data compromises the
security of BlackBerry devices in a way RIM has never tolerated. RIM has
resisted pressure from India, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and others
that threatened to ban RIM products if the company didn't turn over its data
stood its ground and refused to compromise its customers' data privacy. It was
willing to risk the ban rather than break its promise to its customers. After
facing down the intelligence services of several nations, why would RIM cave in
to a couple of wireless carriers that install spyware?
its part, Carrier IQ has tried hard to explain its position by issuing a statement
claiming it's the
carriers that want to capture the information. Carrier IQ has consistently
said it doesn't receive any of the data in question. So far, it seems that the
concerns addressed to Carrier IQ are more properly addressed to the carriers.
none of the carriers contacted by eWEEK
provided a useful response. T-Mobile repeated its original statement; the other
carriers had no comment.
a brief statement, Carrier IQ defended how its software works.
IQ is pre-installed on RIM devices by Network Operators to help solve problems
consumers find on their devices," Andrew Coward, vice president of
marketing at Carrier IQ wrote in a statement. "By removing Carrier IQ,
Network Operators will no longer be able to offer a high level of service in
the event that customers call for assistance."
T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T were going to collect any sort of data from
customers' smartphones, then those companies should have revealed exactly what
they were collecting and what was being done with the data and given the
customer the ability to opt out.
of the carriers that use Carrier IQ has done this.
contrast, Verizon, which does collect information from customers, discloses
this fact in its privacy statement, which includes an opt-out provision.
There's no reason the other carriers couldn't do the same. There's also no
reason that the carriers that use such software couldn't adopt a policy of
transparency instead of stonewalling about information that will eventually
come out anyway.