Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

Apple reportedly granted Uber the ability to record iPhone screens

Uber's iOS app had permission to record users screens.                  Uber Uber's iOS app had permission to record users screens. Uber
Clarence Schmidt | 07 October, 2017, 01:47

In a statement, Uber spokesman Melanie Ensign said: 'Apple gave us this permission because early versions of Apple Watch were unable to adequately handle the level of map rendering in the Uber app.

Mobile security expert Will Strafach uncovered a special permission granted by Apple that allowed Uber to record the screens of users, even when they weren't using the app.

The entitlement isn't commonly granted, and Uber would have had to get direct permission from Apple in order to implement it.

He told Business Insider that Uber was the only app now available in the App Store which possesses the entitlement coded as 'com.apple.private.allow-explicit-graphics-priority, ' stressing that such a revelation is "very odd", especially as he checked "tens of thousands of other apps". The app is now defending the entitlement by stating that it was being used to improve the performance of its Apple Watch app.

The revelation comes on the heels of a report in the New York Times which claimed that Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook told then Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick that Apple would kick Uber out of the Apple App Store if the ride-hailing company was caught violating any rules.

"This move by Uber and Apple has opened up its users to a massive privacy risk".

Uber is now planning to get rid of the API from its iOS codebase.

The tool could be used by Uber or a malicious hacker with access to the company's network to spy on the iPhone user, according to researchers.

"Essentially it gives you full control over the framebuffer, which contains the colours of each pixel of your screen". "Considering Uber's past privacy issues I am very curious how they convinced Apple to allow this". "It can potentially steal passwords etc". Alternatively, it's possible that Apple sandboxed the entitlement to prevent it from accessing data outside Uber's app. "We are working with Apple to remove it completely ASAP".

It's not the first time Uber has made headlines for alleged surveillance infringements.

Although the entitlement isn't intended for any malicious goal, researchers worry that an unethical hacker who manages to break into Uber network might also get access to these sensitive permissions. For example, the so-called Hell program of Uber allegedly allowed the company to monitor the activities of the drivers of rival Lyft, so some may think that the hidden feature could have also allowed Uber to keep track of customers' usage of the Lyft app.

The screen recording feature in question is taken advantage of by screen recording apps on jailbroken iPhones, allowing apps like iRec to capture screens without needing permission directly from Apple.

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