Washington: Some popular smartphone apps may be secretly taking screenshots of your activity and sending them to third parties, a study has found. This is particularly disturbing because these screenshots – and videos of your activity on the screen – could include usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and other important personal information, researchers said.
“We found that thousands of popular apps have the ability to record your screen and anything you type,” said David Choffnes, a professor at Northeastern University in the US.
“That includes your username and password, because it can record the characters you type before they turn into those little black dots,” said Choffnes.
The study was designed to investigate a persistent urban legend that phones are secretly recording our conversations and then selling that information to companies so they can pepper you with targeted advertisements.
While the researchers found no evidence of recorded conversations, they discovered activity that could be even more dangerous.
“We knew we were looking for a needle in a haystack, and we were surprised to find several needles,” said Choffnes.
What they found is that some companies were sending screenshots and videos of user phone activities to third parties. Although these privacy breaches appeared to be benign, they emphasised how easily a phone’s privacy window could be exploited for profit.
“This opening will almost certainly be used for malicious purposes,” said Christo Wilson, a professor at Northeastern.
“It’s simple to install and collect this information. And what’s most disturbing is that this occurs with no notification to or permission by users,” said Wilson.
“In the case we caught, the information sent to a third party was zip codes, but it could just as easily have been credit card numbers,” he said.
The researchers analysed over 17,000 of the most popular apps on the Android operating system, using an automated test programme written by the students.
Although the study was conducted on Android phones, researchers said there is no reason to believe that other phone operating systems would be less vulnerable.
In all, 9,000 of the 17,000 apps had the potential to take screenshots.
“In one case, the app took video of the screen activity and sent that information to a third party,” said Wilson.
That app was GoPuff, a fast-food delivery service, which sent the screenshots to Appsee, a data analytics firm for mobile devices. All this was done without the awareness of app users.
Researchers emphasised that neither company appeared to have any nefarious intent. They said that web developers commonly use this type of information to debug their apps and improve the user experience.
However, that does not mean a malicious company could not use this privacy window to steal personal information for profit.
“That has the potential to be much worse than having the camera taking pictures of the ceiling or the microphone recording pointless conversations. There is no easy way to close this privacy opening,” said Choffnes.
RBI needs to ensure stability: Shaktikanta Das
New Delhi: The head of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said he would take the steps necessary to maintain financial stability in the country and help create favourable conditions for growth.
India’s economy has grown because of measures such as the nationwide goods and services tax and the insolvency and bankruptcy code that prevents wilful defaulters from bidding for stressed assets, Shaktikanta Das said in his address to an investor roundtable.
The country’s growth story is backed by its strong domestic fundamentals, he said, citing lower inflation.
Annual retail inflation rate dropped to an 18-month low of 2.19 per cent in December, strengthening the views of some economists that the central bank could ease monetary policy next month.
India’s top business groups on Thursday urged the central bank to cut its benchmark interest rate by at least half a percentage point and lower the cash reserve ratio it imposes on banks.
The country also needs to watch out for any sudden turbulence in the gloal financial market, Das said.
Centre removes two PNB executive directors for lapses in Rs 13,500-cr fraud
Chennai:The Central government has removed two Punjab National Bank (PNB) Executive Directors — Sanjiv Sharan and K.Veera Brahmaji Rao — for the lapses in the Rs 13,500 crore fraud allegedly perpetrated by absconding diamantaire Nirav Modi.
The PNB has intimated the action to the stock exchanges.
“We welcome the Central government’s action to dismiss the two Executive Directors. The scam of such proportions could not have happened without the knowledge of the top management,” C.H. Venkatachalam, General Secretary, All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA), told IANS.
“Perhaps for the first time, the Centra has removed the Executive Directors of a nationalised bank under the Nationalised Banks (Management and Miscellaneous Provision) Scheme, 1970. All these days it was said the top management of government-owned banks — Chairman, Managing Director, Executive Directors — are governed only by the contract of appointment.
“It is also good that the central government has followed the due process of giving the two PNB Executive Directors opportunity to put forth their views before dismissing them,” Venkatachalam added.
According to the Central government’s notification, on July 3, 2018, Sharan and Rao were issued a show cause notice as to why they could not be removed from office for having failed to exercise proper control over the functioning of PNB, thus enabling the fraud through the misuse of SWIFT at the bank’s Brady House branch in Mumbai.
After considering Sharan and Rao’s replies and the comments of the bank’s Board, the Centre removed them from office as it found it was expedient in the interests of PNB.
According to the notification, the dismissal of Rao is subject to the outcome of a plea in the Delhi High Court.
“We are happy to see some action being taken. Whether it is only the two Executive Directors and other officials are also involved in the scam has to be probed in full,” Venkatachalam said.
According to him, in the past, low-level officers would have been the scapegoats for such massive scams.
“With the action taken on the top management, people will be satisfied that public sector bank officials are answerable for their lapses,” Venkatachalam added.
In this new world, data is the new wealth: Ambani
Mumbai: Reliance Industries chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take steps against ‘data colonisation’, specially by global corporations, stating that Indian data must be owned by Indians.
Invoking Mahatma Gandhi’s movement against political colonisation, Ambani said India now needs a new movement against data colonisation.
“Gandhiji led India’s movement against political colonisation. Today, we have to collectively launch a new movement against data colonisation,” he said Gandhinagar at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit.
Stressing that, in this new world, data is the new wealth, Ambani said, “India’s data must be controlled and owned by Indian people and not by corporate, especially global corporations.”
He further said, “For India to succeed in this data driven revolution, we will have to migrate the control and ownership of Indian data back to India. In other words, give Indian wealth back to every Indian.”
Stating that the “entire world has come to recognise” Modi “as a man of action”, Ambani said, “Honorable Prime Minister, am sure you will make this one of the principal goals of your digital India mission.”
Later in the day, countering Ambani’s call, Governor – Commonwealth of Kentucky, Matthew Griswold, asked Modi “to think in the opposite” in order to realise the tremendous opportunity that lies in Indo-US partnership.
“Honorable prime minister you have been asked from this stage to think about limiting the amount of competition, limiting the exchange of ideas, information and goods. I would encourage you to think in the opposite,” he said.
While stating that it is important to put the people of India first, Griswold said, “It is also important to put their opportunity and our opportunity as citizens of the world to trade with one another and exchange ideas because iron sharpens iron.”
The greatest possibility comes from the exchange of these idea, he added.
“If we can cut the regulations, cut the bureaucracy, cut the red tape, the opportunity is enormous between our nations,” he added that India is now the 10th largest trading partner for the US and “climbing quickly”.
“The opportunity before us between India and the United States is incredible, but responsibility falls on each of one us, those of us in elected positions, those of you in the industry, those of you who represent various constituencies, we have much work to do…we must do this, ” Griswold said.