Malware in Mobile Devices
Other examples of proprietary
Malware means software designed to function in ways that
mistreat or harm the user. (This does not include accidental errors.)
Malware and nonfree software are two different issues. The difference
between free software and
nonfree software is in
whether the users have control of the program or vice versa. It's
not directly a question of what the program does when it
runs. However, in practice nonfree software is often malware, because
the developer's awareness that the users would be powerless to fix any
malicious functionalities tempts the developer to impose some.
Here are examples of malware in mobile devices. See also
the the Apple malware
page for malicious functionalities specific to the Apple iThings.
Many proprietary apps for mobile devices report which other
apps the user has
is doing this in a way that at least is visible and
optional. Not as bad as what the others do.
Portable phones with GPS will send their GPS location on remote
command and users cannot stop them:
(The US says it will eventually require all new portable phones to have
Most mobile phones have a universal back door, which has been
turn them malicious.
Samsung Galaxy devices running proprietary Android versions come with a
back door that provides remote access to the data stored on the
The NSA can tap data in smart phones, including iPhones, Android, and
BlackBerry. While there is not much detail here, it seems that this
does not operate via the universal back door that we know nearly all
portable phones have. It may involve exploiting various bugs. There are
lots of bugs in the phones' radio software.
Spyware in Cisco TNP IP phones:
Spyware in Android phones (and Windows? laptops): The Wall Street
Journal (in an article blocked from us by a paywall) reports that
the FBI can remotely activate the GPS and microphone in Android phones
and laptops. (I suspect this means Windows laptops.) Here is more info.
Some Motorola phones modify Android to
send personal data to Motorola.
Some manufacturers add a
hidden general surveillance package such as Carrier IQ.
Samsung's back door provides access to any file on the system.
Google has a back door to remotely delete apps. (It is in a program
and remotely install apps through GTalkService (which seems, since
that article, to have been merged into Google Play). This adds up to
a universal back door.
Although Google's exercise of this power has not been
malicious so far, the point is that nobody should have such power,
which could also be used maliciously. You might well decide to let a
security service remotely deactivate programs that it
considers malicious. But there is no excuse for allowing it
to delete the programs, and you should have the right to
decide who (if anyone) to trust in this way.
Some Android phones are tyrants (though someone found a way to crack
the restriction). Fortunately, most Android devices are not tyrants.
Mobile devices that come with Windows 8 are tyrants.
Windows 8 on “mobile devices” is a jail.