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Android keyboard app leaks personal data of 31 million users

72597_security-privacy-hackers-locks-key-6778 Android keyboard app leaks personal data of 31 million usersEnlarge Image


James Martin/CNET

Personal data for more than 31 million users of an Android keyboard app called AI.type has leaked online, according to ZDNet and researchers at the Kromtech Security Center

The app’s database server wasn’t password-protected, which meant anyone could access more than 577 gigabytes of personal data, according to the report that was released today. The data was eventually secured after ZDNet attempted to contact the app’s creator, Eitan Fitusi.

Fitusi said in an email that the database in question contained about 50 percent of users’ basic data “about user use patterns of the keyboard.” He said the app is not collecting, storing or sending any password or credit card information.

According to ZDNet, each user record contains the user’s location and basic info such as the user’s full name, email addresses and how many days the app was installed. 

72597_security-privacy-hackers-locks-key-6778 Android keyboard app leaks personal data of 31 million users

Android keyboard app leaks data on 31 million users

ANOTHER DAY, another dodgy Android app discovered, this time in the form of the personal data leaking ai.type Keyboard.

Uncovered by security researchers at Kromtech Security Centre, the keyboard app that offers an alternative to the native keyboards on Android and iOS devices was found to be extracting personal data from some 31 million users and flinging it over to an unsecured database server owned by the app’s co-founder Eitan Fitusi.

The data leak, according to the researchers, only affects the app on Android and not iOS, so iPhone users can keep feeling smug.

After the researchers apparently repeatedly tried to contact Fitusi, the app maker eventually added password protection to the database that held more than 577GB of user data, after it had been previously been left open to anyone who wandered by on the digital highways of the internet.

Had any of the malicious types that lurk on the web found the server they could have extracted all manner of user data, from full names, email addresses, and location, basically a treasure trove of information for people who get their kicks from identity theft and fraud.

Furthermore, security researcher Bob Diachenko noted that the app seemed to hoover up quite a lot of data for what would appear to be a simple keyboard tool.

“It raises the question of why would a keyboard and emoji application need to gather the entire data of the user’s phone or tablet? Based on the leaked database they appear to collect everything from contacts to keystrokes. This is a shocking amount of information on their users who assume they are getting a simple keyboard application,” he said.

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”.

And the app touts privacy as a big focus, noting that text tapped into the keyboard is private and encrypted.

But the security researchers found that this isn’t the case, given that not only was there an unsecured server sitting full of user data, but the texts weren’t encrypted either as they were able to download and look through the database files where they found a table containing 8.6 million entries of text that had been typed into the keyboard app.

So pretty much the promise of privacy, which ai.type outlines on its website has appeared to have a strong whiff of BS.

Whether the data protection and encryption failings are deliberate or just down to some server setup fumbling, is still up for debate. We’ve attempted to contact ai.type for comment and clarification as to what the hell it was playing at.

Such breaches in data protection are worrying as ai.type Keyboard is a widely used app that’s been well reviewed and comes from a legit developer, basically raising the question as to who can you trust these days. We’ll console ourselves by sticking with default keyboards for the time being. µ

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Data of 31 million users of iPhone add-on keyboard ai.type potentially leaks

Conflicting accounts have emerged about a security breach involving the ai.type add-on keyboard for iOS and Android, with researchers claiming that 31 million people’s data has been compromised —with a user’s contacts also potentially included in the leak.

a73c9_23918-30783-aitype-l Data of 31 million users of iPhone add-on keyboard ai.type potentially leaks

The Kromtech Security Center discovered on Tuesday that a MongoDB database used to collect data on ai.type keyboard users was misconfigured, and was available on the internet. Contained in the database is reportedly “data and details of 31,293,959 users” of the ai.type keyboard.

According to the researchers, user information includes phone numbers, full names, device name and model, mobile network name, SMS number, screen resolution, user languages enabled, Android version, IMSI number, IMEI number, emails associated with the phone, country of residence, links and the information associated with the social media profiles including birthdates and photos, IP, and location details.

Making the situation worse, it appears that 6.4 million records contained data gleaned from a user’s Contacts, including names and phone numbers, leading to a total of 373 million records in the briefly publicly available database.

a73c9_23918-30783-aitype-l Data of 31 million users of iPhone add-on keyboard ai.type potentially leaks

Other information in the database includes average messages per day, words per message, and ages of users.

“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. This presents a real danger for cyber criminals who could commit fraud or scams using such detailed information about the user,” said Kromtech’s Head of Communications Bob Diachenko. “It raises the question once again if it is really worth it for consumers to submit their data in exchange for free or discounted products or services that gain full access to their devices.”

Upon installation, ai.type asks for “Full Access.” If permission is granted, the add-on keyboard can transmit absolutely anything typed through the keyboard to the developer. However, the company claims that it will never use personal information it collects —but if Kromtech is correct, the company appears to have stored a fair amount of information from the user’s device anyhow.

Ai.type tells a different story about the data contained in the database —but does not deny that a database was available publicly for a period of time.

Speaking to the BBC, Chief Executive Eitan Fitusi says that the stolen information was a “secondary database.” Additionally, he claims that the IMEI information was never collected by the company, user data collected only involves what ads are clicked by the user, and that the location data wasn’t accurate.

Fitusi claims that the database has been secured since the breach.

The company that found the database, Kromtech, is the company that develops and sells the poorly regarded MacKeeper suite of applications.

AI.type virtual keyboard leaks personal data for 31 million Android users

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AI.type virtual keyboard leaks personal data for 31 million Android users

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6 basic computer keyboard shortcuts to get you back a few minutes of your life

Everyone has a set routine of how they type and search on their devices, which is all fine and good. But what if I told you that it could be exponentially better?

With just a few basic tweaks to your routine, these keyboard shortcuts can buy you back the time you wasted on searching and copying and pasting at work.

In the long run, I have non-scientifically estimated that these tips can buy you back if not hours, then certainly frustration, in the course of your life. You’re welcome.

1. Search within a document or web page

Ninety percent of computer users do not know how to complete a simple search within their documents or a web page, according to a Google Search anthropologist. Ninety percent of people do not know how to search for a particular word or phrase online, in other words! I am going to right this wrong immediately.

Tap the Command button and then the F button if you are on a Mac computer or Control and then the F button if you are on a PC, and the portal to a searchable world will open.

For a more advanced search, Mac users get the gift of Spotlight Search. It allows you to search the vast directory of the web, your files, emails, and contacts all at once. Did you write down that statistic you need to cite in your presentation in an email, a Word document, or a Excel sheet? Don’t worry, Spotlight will find out for you. To access Spotlight Search, hit Command+Spacebar.

2. Copy, paste, highlight

Electronic literacy begins with understanding that you can master a text with a few short editing commands. If you want to be a quick editor of your words, knowing how to copy, paste, and highlight is the most basic information you should know.

Before you can edit text, you have to select it by holding down your mouse over the words you want. If it’s too much time to scroll through an entire treatise of an email, hit Command/Control+A to select all of the text at once. Then if you want to copy that text onto a different page, use Command/Control+C. If you want to paste that text, hit Command/Control+V. Use the Command button if you are on Mac, or the Control button if you are on a PC.

3. Soft return

Knowing how to create a single line break on a document makes formatting resumes a breeze. To create a single line break for your titles and headings simply press Shift+Enter or Shift+Return, depending on which kind of computer you have.

4. Style texts

This trick goes out to all my family members who are amazed how quickly I can dress up a document without having to move my computer mouse. Thankfully, many word processors use the same shortcuts, so these tips can apply across multiple platforms. Simply, highlight over the words you want to style and then follow these keyboard commands:

Bold
Command/Control+B

Italicize
Command/Control+I

Underline
Command/Control+U

5. Screenshots

If you want visual evidence of a group chat conversation or an obscure document, there’s no quicker way than taking a screenshot on your computer. To take a visual receipt, PC users need to hold down their Control key and then press the Print Screen key. For Mac users, you hit the Command button, Shift key, and the number three in quick succession. (The screen shot will be automatically saved as a PNG file on your desktop with the filename starting with “Picture.”)

6. Em dashes

I am embarrassed to admit that it took me more than 25 years on this planet to realize a simple keyboard shortcut that has dramatically cut down my laborious workaround for making an em dash. I used to copy and paste an em dash from a separate document, not realizing that the power to more professional punctuation was under my typing hands all along. For Mac users, you must hold down Shift, Option, and Minus keys all at once. For PC users, hold down Control, Alt, and M-Dash.

How the keyboard on your Android phone is becoming smarter

Keyboard apps have a lot more to offer these days than customizable keys, predictive text input, colourful emojis and swipe gestures. They are growing smarter and offering features that one would associate with a smart assistant. Google with Gboard, Microsoft with SwiftKey and developers of apps such as Swalekh and Bobble have been experimenting on these lines. We take a look at the areas where the lines between a keyboard and smart assistant are getting blurred.

Translate in other languages

Language translation apps come in handy while chatting with someone in another language on WhatsApp or any other messenger. Swalekh keyboard (free on Android and iOS) allows users to transliterate any word typed in English into a regional language with simple swipe gestures on the keyboard. It supports 11 Indian languages such as Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Odiya, Punjabi and Assamese. Gboard (free on Android and iOS) has made chatting in a vernacular or foreign language easier by adding a translate tab in the keyboard. Users can type a word in English or any other language in the Translate tab and the meaning will show next to it. Users can tap and use it in the chats.

Share content faster

Sharing a YouTube link, location on Google Maps or an article on Chrome doesn’t require going through the customary process of switching to that app. Gboard allows users to search for an article in Google search, YouTube or a location within the keyboard, while Slash keyboard (free on Android and iOS) offers a few extras such as the option to share Tweets, audio from SoundCloud or Apple Music and articles from New York Times.

Switching between apps

Keyboard apps such as Bobble (free on Android, iOS) can help users switch from one app to another without going through the customary process of closing the app and then opening the other app. It shows icons of your most used apps right on the keyboard interface. This allows users to switch to an app they want to go to from the keyboard and then get back to the earlier app with a single tap.

Stay productive

Gboard comes with a feature called the Ink tool. It allows users to draw anything on the keyboard using their finger or a stylus. The drawing or text can then be sent as it is to others through social media apps. Microsoft’s SwiftKey (free on Android and iOS) uses AI (Artificial Intelligence) to understand the context of an entire sentence in one go instead of focusing on words separately. This allows it to provide more accurate text predictions and auto correction options to users when they are typing.

In case users are busy or too tired to type, they can use voice commands in Gboard to type an email or message.

Windows 10 keyboard offers emoji suggestions in latest preview

Microsoft recommends trying it out with words like unicorn, kiwi, artist, or turtle (what, no turkey?). When typing, you’ll see the primary emoji prediction in the candidate list, while secondary candidates are accessible by tapping the emoji button. To be able to view the suggestions, you’ll need to have the optional typing feature enabled for your language of choice. Another new trick lets you insert more than one emoji at a time using the emoji panel.

Elsewhere, the preview also includes automatic form-filling for Microsoft’s Edge browser, which was conspicuously absent in the past. As with bookmarks and passwords, details from saved forms will be synced across Windows 10 devices. You can read the full changelog by clicking the source link below.

Keyboard armies on the internet – Petra Caruana Dingli

Theresa May has accused Russia of “weaponising information” and planting fake stories and images on the internet, to influence and undermine the West. Grave concerns are growing at possible internet meddling in the democratic processes of the UK and the US.

Fake accounts on social media platforms, coordinated to influence the US elections in 2016, have been discussed at US Congress committees. A ‘troll factory’ has been mentioned elsewhere, with bloggers paid to influence social networks and the comments sections of Western internet sites.

Besides Russia, these tactics are used in other countries across the world, with ‘cyber armies’ of trolls striving to influence opinion and control information. /What about here in Malta? There is no reason why it could not happen here. Perhaps a system is in place even now, or being formed. How could we identify and uncover it?

During the 2013 general election, it was already flagged in our media that political trolls could be at work. The suspicion was that groups had been recruited to follow online newspaper articles and social media, and post comments to influence opinion against the then government.

This implied that people posing as ordinary citizens were actively pushing political agendas in an organised manner. Their intention was not to debate and inform, but to spin and manipulate. Other users on the internet then share these dubious posts without thinking, unintentionally helping to spread purposely misleading information.

Access to the Civil Society Network’s Facebook page was recently targeted and blocked, together with some activists’ personal Facebook accounts. This happened just as the group was disseminating information about protests on freedom of expression and the rule of law following Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.

CSN founder Michael Briguglio has also highlighted that partisan activists rally heavily behind government spokespersons on Facebook, to attack and discredit critics. Journalist Caroline Muscat has picked up this thread, writing that a range of writers, from columnists to internet trolls, are spinning facts to alter perception in favour of the government, while attacking critics and twisting their arguments. She suggested that this can only be achieved through a highly-organised system working behind the scenes to make it happen.

An immediate way to combat choreographed internet trolling, from a partisan perspective, is for an alternative ‘keyboard army’ to push a different agenda. A rising pitch of polarising debate is nothing if not unhealthy, but this is what is developing. Facebook is not a neutral technology platform. It significantly influences current events and politics.

The Maltese are high users of social media, practically addicted. One of Facebook’s founders Sean Parker explained that they aimed at finding ways to consume as much of people’s time and conscious attention as possible. They therefore “needed to give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post… you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology”. Receiving feedback provides social validation. Facebook was in fact designed to be addictive.

Some people present different, alternative sides of themselves on Facebook, such as with more extroverted, outspoken behaviour than in their everyday lives. Behind the safety of the screen, they are comfortable to reveal more about themselves than they do in face-to-face encounters. Social networks alter the ways we build relationships. They provide information that we read and exchange, which is unfiltered, unedited and increasingly manipulated.

Social networks are used to connect with friends and colleagues, but people obtain their news there too. This is not checked by editors. Facebook is not interested in the quality of its content, but only in how often it is shared and liked. This system generates money through advertising. But it can also distort and corrode reality.

Facebook creates biases and influences opinion, by using complex algorithms which push up items on your newsfeed which fit your profile, and suppress others. The more you click or like certain types of posts, the more you will have of them. Your newsfeed does not give a balanced picture, but one based on your preferences. It perpetuates biases which can warp reality. People look for those things which they want to hear, casting aside divergent views. Instead of connecting people, social networks can thereby polarise and divide them.

To compound this, users often ‘unfriend’ people whose approach and ideas they dislike, tightening up their echo chamber until they are only exposed to like-minded people, reinforcing their world view.

An urgent debate about the effects of social networks is emerging. They are an entirely new phenomenon in history and it is unclear how they should be handled or controlled. These platforms had promised to facilitate more freedom of expression and an informed, connected public, but they are being abused to shape opinion and the democratic process in unhealthy ways. The power of social networks to manipulate political outcomes has been recognised, but it is still uncertain what can or should be done about it.

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Keyboard Shortcuts: Windows 10

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It’s time to update your iPhone if you’re getting that bizarre “i” keyboard bug

⍰ can’t tell you how happy ⍰ am.

Apple is releasing an update to its iOS 11 software today (Nov. 9) that should solve an issue many users have recently reported, where typing the capital letter “i” is replaced by symbols like this ⍰.

The new operating system will also fix other minor bugs, according to MacRumors. It’s currently unclear if it also fixes another reported issue of the calculator app not being able to add correctly.

To download the update, head to the Settings app, tap General, then Software Update. The latest version of iOS is 11.1.1.

Grammarly’s iPhone Keyboard Corrects Your Texts and Tinder …

19025_nptqz5elycllnsrvhw0d Grammarly's iPhone Keyboard Corrects Your Texts and Tinder ...
Image credit: Pexels

For the past few years, I’ve been using Grammarly. The service corrects your spelling and grammar on the fly, and the Chrome extension is great for helping me catch tiny typos and misplaced commas in emails, or even posts on Lifehacker I’m adding to our CMS. Now Grammarly has extended to one more place: your iPhone.

This week the service announced a new iPhone keyboard that brings its grammar-checking software to your texts, emails and the like you send from your phone.

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The software was developed by “some of the world’s leading authorities on linguistic technology,” and is capable of picking spelling and grammar mistakes as well as point out sentences that others might find confusing and hard to understand.

Image credit: Grammarly

Yes, your phone’s built-in spell checker can already do some of that, but as we all know the iPhone’s built-in autocorrect isn’t exactly the pinnacle of accuracy. The keyboard works with everything from Tinder to Twitter. If you opt for Grammarly’s Premium version, the keyboard will also make suggestions for different words you should use or style improvements in your writing.

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I really enjoy using the Chrome extension (and recommend giving it a download if you haven’t already). Even after running something I’ve written through the spelling and grammar checker in Word, it still catches mistakes I don’t realize I’ve made. If you aren’t already super attached to your iPhone keyboard, then downloading this one is a no-brainer.

Grammarly’s iPhone Keyboard Corrects Your Texts and Tinder Messages

86043_nptqz5elycllnsrvhw0d Grammarly's iPhone Keyboard Corrects Your Texts and Tinder Messages
Image credit: Pexels

For the past few years, I’ve been using Grammarly. The service corrects your spelling and grammar on the fly, and the Chrome extension is great for helping me catch tiny typos and misplaced commas in emails, or even posts on Lifehacker I’m adding to our CMS. Now Grammarly has extended to one more place: your iPhone.

This week the service announced a new iPhone keyboard that brings its grammar-checking software to your texts, emails and the like you send from your phone.

Advertisement

The software was developed by “some of the world’s leading authorities on linguistic technology,” and is capable of picking spelling and grammar mistakes as well as point out sentences that others might find confusing and hard to understand.

Image credit: Grammarly

Yes, your phone’s built-in spell checker can already do some of that, but as we all know the iPhone’s built-in autocorrect isn’t exactly the pinnacle of accuracy. The keyboard works with everything from Tinder to Twitter. If you opt for Grammarly’s Premium version, the keyboard will also make suggestions for different words you should use or style improvements in your writing.

Advertisement

I really enjoy using the Chrome extension (and recommend giving it a download if you haven’t already). Even after running something I’ve written through the spelling and grammar checker in Word, it still catches mistakes I don’t realize I’ve made. If you aren’t already super attached to your iPhone keyboard, then downloading this one is a no-brainer.

This is the BlackBerry Motion, an upcoming Android phone with no keyboard in sight

Since BlackBerry got out of the hardware game, and TCL started building phones for the company previously known for its physical keyboard-toting business phones, we’ve seen a couple of new BlackBerry-branded devices. There was the modest Aurora (sans keyboard), specifically for the Indonesian market, and then there was the flagship KEYone, which was supposed to invoke memories of BlackBerry roots with its physical keyboard. It did so, to some extent, even if it was underwhelming in certain areas.

The next phone to be released under the BlackBerry name can now be seen in full, thanks to serial leaker Evan Blass (@evleaks). The phone has been referred to as “Krypton” in previous rumors, which may have just been a codename as Blass seems to think it will officially be called the BlackBerry Motion, a nod to the company’s former name, Research In Motion, perhaps.

We can see from the image that the new device won’t have the famous BlackBerry keyboard like the KEYone, opting instead for a full touchscreen display, which is flanked by rather sizable bezels by today’s increasingly strict standards. A few other details can be identified, including a USB Type-C port, headphone jack (yey!), and what looks like a bottom firing speaker. On the right side, we see three physical buttons. There’s a volume rocker and a power button as standard, plus a darker button that could be for the camera or maybe even an assignable ‘action key’ like on the KEYone.

That’s about all this image gives us, except that it’s running a version of Android (probably not Oreo) with an antiquated looking home screen with what looks like the Google Now launcher. A previously leaked photo showed off a carbon fiber back, and rumors have suggested it will be a mid-range range phone with a Snapdragon 625 or 626, a 1080p display, and a large 4,000mAh battery. It seems likely the phone will launch at some point this month for around $500, so we shouldn’t have to wait much longer to find out more details.

Popular Android Keyboard App Caught Collecting User Data, Running External Code

ca4ce_broken_computer Popular Android Keyboard App Caught Collecting User Data, Running External Code

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