Privacy apps could fall into the wrong hands

Rating: Phone data extraction terminals might be fooled

A worrying report* appeared in yesterday’s [March 22nd 2012] Sunday Times alleging that British police forces are storing personal data from the mobile phones of suspects – even if they are not charged. Apparently only seven forces have openly admitted to renting the extracting terminals but the real figure is probably much higher. One source suggested that 22 forces in England and Wales might be involved. The equipment maker – Radio Tactics, claims that its latest terminals can crack popular Android social media apps. GoMobile News wonders if criminals will start to use sophisticated apps such as Cate (see here) to beat such machines.The range of data which these terminals can extract is both extensive and worrying – especially since the process is supposed to take only 30 minutes.

Information includes address books; call history; emails; photos; texts; and videos.

If the smartphones has been used for location based services, it’s possible to discover the suspects’ movements, too.

Radio Tactics says that version 5.9 of its Aceso portable system can decode social apps such as Viber, Heytell, AIM, LinkedIn, IM+, Fring and iMessage for iPhone and BlackBerry’s Ping Chat!

Emma Draper, a spokesperson for Privacy International, an organisation that campaigns on privacy issues, told the BBC that while the UK’s Met’s current plans were limited to fixed extraction terminals in stations, portable technology was readily available.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the equipment was used only when it was suspected the mobile phone had been used in the “commission” of an offence.

There are also suggestions that some suspects might be coerced into providing their PIN numbers if they had decided to password protect their smartphones.

GoMobile News remembers PC privacy software which automatically erased encrypted data if the number of failed password attempts exceeded a specific number.

Such apps could well be developed for the latest smartphones as they are usually designed to protect stored pornography and could be adapted by criminals.

* A subscription to The Times’ web site is required

About Hans Cett

Hans Cett is an established freelance author and consultant specialising in the mobile communications industry. He also writes for Countdown2MWC - http://countdown2mwc.wordpress.com/
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