Risk
4/5/2011
02:41 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Feds Probe Mobile App Privacy

Pandora, an online music service, got hit with a subpoena that appears to be part of an investigation into the information sharing processes of apps that run on Apple and Android mobile platforms.

Best Mobile Apps For Busy Professionals
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Best Mobile Apps For Busy Professionals
Federal prosecutors in New Jersey are investigating how mobile apps use personal data, according to an unnamed source cited in a story by the Wall Street Journal.

A spokesperson for the Office of the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey declined to comment, citing a policy of not discussing any ongoing investigation.

But on Monday, Pandora, an online music service that distributes mobile music apps, confirmed that earlier this year it had been "served with a subpoena to produce documents in connection with a federal grand jury, which we believe was convened to investigate the information sharing processes of certain popular applications that run on the Apple and Android mobile platforms."

Pandora revealed that it had received the subpoena in a financial filing with the SEC. The company noted that while it was not a specific target in the investigation, it could nonetheless incur costs to comply with the subpoena and might be dragged into litigation.

The revelation follows a series of reports by the Wall Street Journal about online privacy. In October, the paper found that the 10 most popular Facebook apps were sending Facebook UIDs (user IDs) to at least 25 data collection and advertising firms. In December, it found that 56 out of 101 popular smartphone apps transmitted the phone's unique device ID number without consent and that almost as many transmitted location data.

These findings have piqued the interested of regulators at the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice and have prompted at least one lawsuit already.

The Federal Trade Commission has been backing a do-not-track proposal and legislators like Senator Jay Rockefeller say that basic privacy rules are necessary. In all likelihood, the era of self-regulation for mobile and online apps will soon end.

While privacy rules may provide a framework to punish those acting in bad faith, they're not likely to ensure individual privacy. Without a complete source code review by a third-party -- something that's not likely to happen -- it's relatively easy for an ill-intentioned developer to spirit information out of a user's phone. A simple method would be to cache sensitive data and transmit it, perhaps in encrypted or obfuscated form, a month or two after installation.

Even with a mobile operating system like Android, which requires users to authorize network access in apps, the fundamental problem is that personal and financial data be used both legitimately and illegitimately and it's not always possible to divine intent from raw data.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-5211
Published: 2015-01-27
Stack-based buffer overflow in the Attachmate Reflection FTP Client before 14.1.433 allows remote FTP servers to execute arbitrary code via a large PWD response.

CVE-2014-8154
Published: 2015-01-27
The Gst.MapInfo function in Vala 0.26.0 and 0.26.1 uses an incorrect buffer length declaration for the Gstreamer bindings, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via unspecified vectors, which trigger a heap-based buffer overf...

CVE-2014-9197
Published: 2015-01-27
The Schneider Electric ETG3000 FactoryCast HMI Gateway with firmware before 1.60 IR 04 stores rde.jar under the web root with insufficient access control, which allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive setup and configuration information via a direct request.

CVE-2014-9198
Published: 2015-01-27
The FTP server on the Schneider Electric ETG3000 FactoryCast HMI Gateway with firmware through 1.60 IR 04 has hardcoded credentials, which makes it easier for remote attackers to obtain access via an FTP session.

CVE-2014-9646
Published: 2015-01-27
Unquoted Windows search path vulnerability in the GoogleChromeDistribution::DoPostUninstallOperations function in installer/util/google_chrome_distribution.cc in the uninstall-survey feature in Google Chrome before 40.0.2214.91 allows local users to gain privileges via a Trojan horse program in the ...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
If you’re a security professional, you’ve probably been asked many questions about the December attack on Sony. On Jan. 21 at 1pm eastern, you can join a special, one-hour Dark Reading Radio discussion devoted to the Sony hack and the issues that may arise from it.