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Smart Phone or Smart Target?

Carrier IQ scandal and exploding smart phones are here. Now, are you thinking “Is my smart phone one of those?” In all this excitement, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well… Do ya?

Carrier IQ Scandal

Discovery of secret software that tracks and logs personal activity running on most smart phones in US is just one part of the equation. First, nobody asked you if you wanted that “feature.” Second, nobody told you who will be able to access your personal data collected by the Carrier IQ application. Third, are you sure that there is no two-way communication between the application and your carrier.

According to security researcher named Trevor Eckhart, carriers and handset makers are able to access data collected by the software and they can even specify what needs to be logged and sent to the carrier. So far, it is made public that Carrier IQ software is installed on phones available from AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. Who can say that others are just not discovered yet?

Burning phones

While you might think that your new iPhone is the hottest thing, I am not sure if one Brazilian, Ayla Mota, would agree with you. I don’t know if he used his new iPhone as a wakeup alarm but he surely received one rude awakening. In his own words:

At dawn, I woke up seconds before witnessing the burning of my iPhone when I saw a lot of sparks and black smoke out of the mobile. My room was filled with the unbearable smell of smoke!

What would you do if you were the passenger on a domestic flight to Sydney, Australia whose iPhone started “emitting a significant amount of dense smoke, accompanied by a red glow?” This has been happening for some time and European Union launched an investigation after several iPhones and iPod Touches exploded or caught fire on flights throughout Europe in 2009.

My question is… What if your carrier can order your phone (specifically Carrier IQ) and tell it to perform certain activities without your knowledge? Like… what if your carrier can tell your phone to blow up itself?

A Gun Target

The lawyers of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and those of the handset makers will tell you that they have been granted permission to collect your personal data by the various terms-of-service contracts and end-user licensing agreements that users accepted. Well, I never read the fine print before signing those agreements too. Still… I think that I should know if my phone can explode or ignite on a remote command!

Targeting

There is no proof that burning and exploding smart phones are anything other than a technical problem with overheating batteries. However, what if some smart aleck figured out a way to hack into Carrier IQ and cause your phone to ignite? It might have started as a way to remotely attack suspected terrorists by a legitimate governments but who can surely say that this setup is hack-proof?

I am thinking about ordering one of those cheap Chinese smart phone copies. At least if they burn, I will know that it is because of cheap manufacturing and not because somebody out there really hates me.

I hate to be a moving target…

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