Your smartphone would be extra smart for all wrong reasons
Moneylife Digital Team 05 December 2011

Beware your smartphone may have some app installed in it, which might be sending your personal information to some unknown person

As technology goes to a new high, the perennial issue of privacy gets murkier. Even a small device like mobile phone could put you at risk. These ubiquitous cellphones could keep us under constant surveillance. According to a report from, recently, Democratic US Senator for Minnesota, Al Franken, ordered an investigation into mobile software maker Carrier IQ after it was learnt that the company tracks and transmits personal information of the phone user- iPhones and Androids, without their knowing about it, through installed software. The company officially denied the charge.
Critics point out that given humongous sales of smartphones in India, and the weak surveillance systems in the country, Indian might also be at the risk of being monitored by some unauthorised people.
According to the report, “AT&T, Sprint, HTC, and Samsung have all confirmed that that their mobile phones integrate the Carrier IQ software.”
Back in India, an expert say that, for years now, during the confidential meetings in the US and the Europe, the attendees were asked to deposit their mobile phones outside, and it is a fact that people can listen to conversations in and around your mobile phone if they so desire, same is increasingly happening in India.
The software encrypts all sensitive data of the users, without informing them, including the location of the user, call records, letters typed while texting or browsing. All these personal data is then eventually sent back to the companies.
“Within the Indian context, where privacy is still not considered sacred, there is no dearth of providers who will do this for you for a fee,” says Veeresh Malik, veteran seaman and columnist of Moneylife. He explains, “As far as new generation smart phones are concerned, many of them happily hook in and exchange hand-shakes or even more with the nearest wireless network on continuous basis, even if the internet access is switched off.”
Sahil Baghla, president, Anti-Hacking Welfare Society, India, told Moneylife that, “Currently there are hackers, who can steal personal data from these smartphones. If this trend continues then in coming years, nothing will be secure. All the personal details, e-mails, phone banking will monitored by these foreign companies. There is an urgent need to strengthen our cyber security laws and surveillance system.”

In its recent exposure, WikiLeaks released documents showing that two Indian companies, Delhi based Shoghi, which monitors GSM communications and SMS keyword spotting and Indore-based Cleartrail Technologies which provides interception, analytic solution, and mass monitoring of IP among others.  It tracks all the information of the people.
What could be the Solution for all this? Mr Malik believes that there is a great future for face to face meetings again, it seems, or manual typewriters. “Even photocopiers, printers and printer cartridges leave secret marks on paper so that they can be traced back to the printer or copier used, and since most printers or copiers are internet enabled devices now, through a variety of devices, it is easy to track back what was printed or photocopies back,” he said.

According to Yogesh Sapkale, deputy editor, Moneylife, ‘precaution’ is the keyword while dealing with security threats everywhere, be it smartphone or internet. He says, “Smartphone user need to be cautious and continuously monitor applications that are sending and receiving data in the background. In case of suspicion, either close that application or uninstall it. In addition, do not install apps received from unknown source or vendor.”

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