Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oh you Smart-Phone!

Remember the days when you were without a cell phone. Peaceful isn't it :-p. So, once you were out of your home parents couldn't track you, and after a tiring day there was no girl friend disturbance after you landed back in the boundaries of your sweet sweet home ;). Some might disagree..I agree to their disagreement as well !!
So while you thought it worked the best possible way, someone just wasn't happy with it. They decided it was time to destroy the dreamy environment that you lived in and give you a trouble...and there were the tracking devices called cell phones. Then, as you somehow handled (or rater tried to handle) the new trouble in your life..someone again out smarted your thoughts and introduced a more advanced version..in came today' smart-phones. 
I possess one myself and frankly can't do without it in my normal day-to-day life. A dependency I am happily living with. Before you start throwing tantrums and sending abusing comments here is what this post is all about....
Introduction and popularity of smart-phones is a good enough reason to be happy for some, and a good enough reason to be "more" happy for others. If you possess a smart-phone like I do (mine is Nexus S, by the way) and you haven't been visiting Mars in the last fortnight, you probably already have heard about the waves Carrier IQ is creating since the news of it's rootkit tracking (or as most people put it... "spying") the smart-phone user' activity (each of them) broke on every possible blog and site you may have heard that publishes these kind of news.

In case you do not know, here is a fill up for you:
Carrier IQ is a company based in Mountain View, California and provides mobile analytic services for smart-phones to the wireless industry. It came in to picture just a few days back when one of the Android security researcher, Trevor Eckhart, discovered Carrier IQ software on one of the smart-phones that he was using. No problem, I say! The problem and a rather alarming one was that this software was collecting data right from the device' location, to the application installed in it and even (take a deep breath) the key strokes performed on the device. 
Why is Carrier IQ collecting all of that data? According to them, their software is installed on the devices by the carriers who are interested in getting these statistics to improve the user experience.
Now this may be "sky is falling" for some of you out there and may be nothing for others. Its ok if you got a little uncomfortable and curious after the news broke. The next think I did was to search the net to see if there is a way by which I could find if my phone has one (obvious haan!). Much to my dismay there was no app available in the android market at that time. I did, however, find some news on detecting the Carrier IQ but that involved rooting my smartphone..which I wasn't comfortable with.
I did see a few pages/articles/blogs which mentioned Google confirming that the Nexus line of phones (which includes mine) are free from Carrier IQ. That in itself was a calm-er.
Anyway, for those who are still uncomfortable about all this fuss around Carrier IQ, here is a good news. An android app is now available in android market that could tell you if your phone is carrying Carrier IQ or not. Its called 'Voodoo Carrier IQ detector'. At the time of writing this post, it's still in the development phase but is being updated very frequently so we should have some pretty reliable results in no time. I have tried this application myself and below is the result:
Nexus S, running Gingerbread 2.3.6 (No Carrier IQ)
Vodoo Carrier IQ detector
The app already has some 2K plus installs and has a 4.7 avg rating. For those interested here is the QR to the android market install page. Use your smartphone' camera and a QR reader app (as you may already know). 

More links for your read:
1. Carrier IQ, What it means to you !
2. Block Carrier IQ on iPhone (earlier ones) ! 
3. Should you worry? (One of my best ones in the list)
4. What does it do on my Phone? 
5. Apple says no more!

Some apps, that I found afterwards, that could tell you if Carrier IQ is installed on your smart-phone or not:
1. Lookout Labs (Seems most reliable and user friendly at present) 
2. Trevor Eckhart also developed one

Feel free to contribute more links, I will be glad to add them to this list for the benefit of others.

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