APNewsBreak: South Korea-Backed App Puts Children at Risk

21 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Canadian researchers help uncover problems with South Korean app putting children at risk.

The University of Toronto report is based on two separate security audits, one conducted by researchers at the Citizen Lab with the university’s Munk School of Global Affairs, and the other by auditing firm Cure53. Security researchers say they found critical weaknesses in a South Korean government-mandated child surveillance app — vulnerabilities that left the private lives of the country’s youngest citizens open to hackers.The Canadian researchers at Citizen Lab said they discovered 26 critical security flaws in the program “Smart Sheriff,” the mandatory South Korean child monitoring app.

In a separate report, the German software auditing company, Cure53 also detailed the similar concerns of the app. “Parents worldwide have growing concerns about their children’s use of social media and mobile devices. Smart Sheriff and its fellow surveillance apps are meant to serve as electronic baby sitters, letting parents know how much time their children are spending with their phones, keeping kids off objectionable websites and even alerting parents if their children send or receive messages with words like “bully” or “pregnancy.” In April, Seoul required new smartphones sold to those 18 and under to be equipped with such software — a first-of-its-kind move, according to Korea University law professor Park Kyung-sin. However, this case shows precisely how good intentions can end up seriously wrong — in this case, a government-promoted parental monitoring application actually putting children at greater, rather than less, risk of harm.” Researchers said children’s birth dates, phone numbers, browsing history and other personal data were being sent unencrypted. Highlighting the fact that the ‘Smart Sheriff’ app puts children at potential risk, Citizen Lab and Cure 53 security researchers said that a catalog of worrying problems have been found in the app. However, the new report found that children’s personal details and browsing activity were not secure on the app, parental limits could be easily disabled and Smart Sheriff’s design and infrastructure were insufficiently protected.

The researchers also said that since most of the app’s weaknesses can be exploited at scale, thousands or even all of the app’s 380,000 users can potentially be compromised at once.

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