Science

Millions caught in virtual keyboard app data breach

Millions caught in virtual keyboard app data breach

The personal data of over 31 million customers has been leaked online after the developers of popular virtual keyboard app, AI.type failed to secure the server that housed the database containing all of the user information their software had collected.

The database, which appeared to contain information exclusively from Android users, belonged to AI.type co-founder Eitan Fitusi.

Now it's worth pointing out that the ai.type Keyboard app does note that it'll suck up data and requires permissions to the user's mobile contacts database, though it points out that "all information is locally stored on smartphone's vocabulary".

Another week, another open database left online, but this latest case has shown not only sloppy security but also how much data you're giving up with some apps.

The massive trove of information was not protected by a password, meaning anyone with the direct URL to the database could access the information stored within.

But security analysts were quick to warn of the amount of information that mobile apps gather about users, and said the practice was not acceptable. It included phone number, full name of the owner, device name and model, mobile network name, SMS number, screen resolution, user languages enabled, Android version, IMSI and IMEI numbers (both used to identify a mobile phone), email addresses associated with the phone and country of residence.

ZDNet obtained a portion of the database to verify.

Kromtech added that over 6 million records also contained data from users' contact books, "in total more than 373 million records scraped from registered users' phones, which include all their contacts saved/synced on linked Google account".

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Fitusi who acknowledged the breach has secured the server since the news went public but did not respond to any questions. The unprotected database from AI.type reveals just how much detail the app can grab from users without their explicit knowledge.

"Theoretically, it is logical that anyone who has downloaded and installed the Ai.Type virtual keyboard on their phone has had all of their phone data exposed publicly online", he told ZDNet.

The seven-year-old company also claims that anything typed using its keyboards "stays encrypted and private". Android users who install the free version of the app might be scared away by an alert that says the keyboard may collect "all the text you type", including passwords and credit card numbers.

For its part, AI.type says on its website that user's privacy "is our main concern". Security researchers said that the data included names, locations, phone numbers, and Google search queries were leaked.

"This presents a real danger for cyber criminals who could commit fraud or scams using such detailed information about the user", he rightly pointed out.

"It is clear that data is valuable and everyone wants access to it for different reasons", Alex Kernishniuk, VP of strategic alliances at Kromtech, said.

'Some want to sell the data they collect, others use it for targeted marketing, predictive artificial intelligence, and cyber criminals want to use it to make money in more and more creative ways.


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