January 19, 2018

Apple let Uber secretly record iPhone screens

07 October 2017, 12:08 | Ross Houston

Image carol court getty images

Image carol court  getty images

Security researcher Will Strafach has discovered that Uber had been granted access to an undocumented, private app permission allowing its app to access the screen-recording feature on iPhones.

If someone could compromise the Uber app through a security flaw, they'd be able to use the app's screen recording privilege to spy on any number of things on your device, including two-factor auth texts and passwords.

Despite the likes of Greyball and other rather dubiously purposed apps, such as "Hell", created to track Uber drivers moonlighting for rivals, there's no suggestion that Uber is using this technology for nefarious purposes.

Uber says the entitlement was used for something far less nefarious than tracking drivers or surveilling users: Improving performance in its Apple Watch app. Strafach noted that he looked for indications that the entitlement had been used maliciously and found none. It enabled the app to run the memory-intensive rendering of maps on the iPhone and then send the image to the Watch app.

An Uber spokesperson told the Independent: "This API was only used for a short period of time on an old version of our Apple Watch app". Uber said that it will be removing the entitlement from its app soon, but for those who wish to take cybersecurity in their own hands, you might want to delete the Uber app from your iPhones until that happens.

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"It's not connected to anything else in our current codebase and the diff [sic] to remove it is already being pushed into production".

"Essentially it gives you full control over the framebuffer, which contains the colours of each pixel of your screen. So they can potentially draw or record the screen", Luca Todesco, a researcher and iPhone jailbreaker, told Gizmodo. This may have lead to passwords and other sensitive information getting stolen by a hacker or the brand itself.

It's surprising that despite Uber's dismal record on users' privacy, Apple allowed the company to have the special treatment. The firm added that it is working with Apple to remove the API completely.

The entitlement first appeared in Uber's app around the time of the original Watch launch in 2015, according to Strafach. 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.

After using internal Apple abilities to tag and track individual iPhone devices, even after they were wiped, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was summoned to Apple's headquarters.

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