Wednesday, July 15, 2009

BlackBerry update bursting with spyware


TheRegister
Official snooping suspected in UAE.

An update pushed out to BlackBerry users on the Etisalat network in the United Arab Emirates appears to contain remotely-triggered spyware that allows the interception of messages and emails, as well as crippling battery life.

Sent out as a WAP Push message, the update installs a Java file that one curious customer decided to take a closer look at, only to discover an application intended to intercept both email and text messages, sending a copy to an Etisalat server without the user being aware of anything beyond a slightly excessive battery drain.

It was, it seems, the battery issue that alerted users to something being wrong. Closer examination (as reported by itp.net) seems to indicate that all instances of the application were expected to register with a central server, which couldn't cope with the traffic - thus forcing all the instances to repeatedly attempt to connect while draining the battery. A more phased reporting system might have escaped detection completely.

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