14 Apr, 2021

"Siri" spy technology

A glamorous aura, an achievement that went beyond description until it gained a formidable reputation by international standards and norms

This is howApple presents itself as one of the largest tech giants selling a large variety of helping services and products .Like other companies, the American company seeks to keep people more dependent on their digital devices, so it provides applications to make users rely more on its devices compared to others.  Although people feel more comfortable by using their smart phone devices and their applications that facilitate their work on a daily basis, they always feel anxious about their privacy and personal data - potentially being retrieved because of various justifications. For example, the improvement sound capacity for speakers and voice recording applications is  an appropriate justification for voice recognition.

 While using iPhone it is important to know this information in this field:

  • On 2019, Washington Post revealed that special applications called application trackers run on “IOS” devices collect user data without their personal knowledge. After installing a software monitoring device on iPhone, it was recognized that more than 5400 monitoring applications send data from the device to third parties via other applications such as the weather app and "Spotify". Application trackers obtain the information of the users of these applications and send it to other parties. The data contains sensitive information such as emails, phone numbers, IP addresses and the exact location of the user.

Data tracking apps often run more actively at night, when the owner of the device is asleep, or sometimes at times when the smartphone is not being used.  It is difficult to block trackers from apps that collect information, because it is easy for trackers to operate in a non-noticeable way.

Although the collected data is used to introduce updates that improve the user’s experience, Washington Post noticed that the process ends with the transfer of sensitive information to third-party tracking companies, such as Amplitude, Appboy and Demdex, and the collected and shared data with these companies reached 1.5 GB in total from one user.

Also in 2019, security researchers stated that they discovered a version in the iOS operating system for iPhones of the dangerous series of EXODUS spyware targeting the Android operating system, which was seen earlier that year on the official Google play store. According to researchers at Lookout, the specialized company in the field of information security, the version of the virus on iPhone phones is able to collect and steal contacts, photos, videos, audio recordings, GPS information and the location of the device, and can perform voice recordings upon request.

Also in 2019, a new Apple scandal was that iPhones could leak users' data through the Safari web browser. The Next Web, a specialized technical site, stated that the security experts discovered that Apple leak users’ data of the Safari browser to a major Chinese company called Tencent. This data includes the names of the users of the browser, and the users’ Internet protocols when they open the browser.

Apple insists that it "does not collect users' personal information to sell for advertisers or other organizations." But this claim is not valuable, on the same hand, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, claims the same thing, and that his company sells advertisers what it has gathered of information about users' activity on the network which helps them determine what products shall be directed to them, which has been proven to hide the facts.

Apple collects a lot of information from iPhones. When we turn on our phones, the GPS knows where we are, what we are doing and where we are going.  When we ask Siri, the smart voice assistant, about how to go somewhere or about a specific recipe, also Apple is alerted, without showing us ads based on our interests, unlike Facebook and Google, but it tries to specialize itself more, by scattering the information it collects and looks at patterns used instead of sources of information.

Apple claims that after mixing user information, it collects it with the data of millions of others, and says that it sees general patterns and does not see the details that can be traced to reach a specific user, and that these patterns help the company to identify things such as: the most popular emoji, the better predictive typing text suggestions, Safari power consumption rates. The company admits that it freely collects information about the downloaded music we listen to, movies, books, and apps in order to help it make suggestions!  Then it admits that it is actually selling ads, but on a smaller scale.

Apple also claims that it used to store encrypted data on servers, and its encryption keys on other servers, and only decode it when there are official requests from government agencies or orders from the court, adding that these practices, that are, responding to government requests and providing the required data, are mentioned in a report. It is published annually, known as the "Transparency Report", which shows the number of the recieved governmental requests during the year, with mentioning the names of the authorities.

 As for the hacking that takes place via Siri search technology, it was as follows:

In a report issued by British Guardian, it was revealed that its being listened regularly to the iPhone users via Siri technology. The company claims that it only listens to a small portion of the recordings and only 1% of them are used for classification purposes.  The records are also not associated with any particular Apple ID, so it would be nearly impossible to trace them back to their original owner.

Unintentionally Siri is being activated many times to record personal conversations such as between a doctor and a patient, or a secret business deal. Also an anonymous contractor stated that supposed criminal deals such as drug exchange are recorded. Unfortunately, people who own an Apple Pod or smartwatch are already vulnerable to this gap.

Siri's occasional behavior is reported as a "technical problem," and there is no high control of who is working on it and how much information they have access to. The problem is that it is relatively easy to identify the person speaking in the recordings, and occasional triggers sometimes reveal an address or a name.

Apple has provided an option to completely disable Siri, but the company should also disclose to its users that this human oversight exists. For example, Alexa and the Google Assistant have an option to turn off the microphone while keeping the voice assistant on.  So this feature has to be added to Siri.