Sunday, 9 February 2014

Carrier IQ has to die: tell your Android phone and tablet manufacturers that you don't want their spyware

Remember the Carrier IQ scandal? Quick memory refresher: Carrier IQ is a rootkit (something really bad, worse than a virus) that spies on you, and sends lots of stuff to the computers at Carrier IQ HQ that you'd rather keep for yourself. Your location, the websites you visit, who you call and text, that sort of stuff. It infects many Android phones, and was found on iPhones too.

Carrier IQ forwards your private data to phone manufacturers and carriers without asking you first, and without letting you opt out.

For example, Carrier IQ can tell your carrier which websites you surf to, even if you use WiFi to avoid your carriers data network.

When Carrier IQ was caught with their pants down they denied everything, fired legal threats at the man who exposed their crimes (Trevor Eckhart, the Ed Snowden of Android), and only backed down when they found the whole world against them.

But Carrier IQ didn't die. It still pollutes our gadgets, even if you buy an unbranded phone or tablet to avoid the bloatware slapped on by your carrier.

When I went into the shortcut menu of my Samsung Galaxy S4 mini I found the entries highlighted in the screenshot above. Four pointers to Carrier IQ junk, and no way to remove them because they are integrated into essential system processes in the same way the AIDS virus puts its genes into your DNA.

Most apps meant to detect Carrier IQ were unable to find the infection, but after testing a few apps from the Play Store I hit Disable Carrier IQ Mod by Pavel Valenta. This app found Carrier IQ, but was unable to do anything about it. Of course I could get rid of it by switching to a custom ROM like CyanogenMod, but to date the custom ROMs for my phone have too many bugs to dump the stock ROM.

Maybe Carrier IQ on my Samsung is dormant, waiting for a trigger. Maybe it is sending all sorts of stuff home to its makers. Either way, I don't want any junk from Carrier IQ on my phone, so I'll keep looking for a way to get rid of it. Meanwhile, I told Samsung that if they won't let me remove Carrier IQ from my Android my next phone will not be a Samsung. If all of you speak out they might get the message. Samsung is not the only one who puts the Carrier IQ spyware on its gadgets, so if you find Carrier IQ on your non-Samsung Android or other device, tell its manufacturer that they'll lose a customer if they don't clean up their act.

CIQ discussion on xda (warning: full of geekspeak and raw code)
The Rootkit Of All Evil: CIQ (xda on CIQ in non-geekspeak)
Carrier IQ on Samsung Galaxy S4 mini (xda thread)
Disable Carrier IQ Mod by Pavel Valenta (detected Carrier IQ on my phone, but couldn't do anything against it)\

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