Mandatory South Korean parental control app is a security nightmare

21 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

TORONTO – Canadian and German security researchers claim to have found a weakness in a child surveillance app that is required by law in South Korea for all new smartphones sold to minors.

The Smart Sheriff app, available for Android and iPhone, helps to let parents know how much time their children are spending on their phones, and remotely block content. The report found that children’s phone numbers, birth dates, browsing history and other personal data were being sent unencrypted, making it easier for an attacker to steal personal information.

Researchers also found weaknesses in the authentication process meaning Smart Sheriff could easily be hacked, turned off entirely or reprogrammed to send alerts to parents. “With little effort, these vulnerabilities could allow children to bypass parental protections, allow malicious attackers to disrupt access to every user’s device, and interfere with the operations of the service,” Collin Anderson, an independent researcher, said in a statement. “Such failures demonstrate an inattention to children’s security from the foundation of the application, and, even more concerning, have been open for exploitation for years.” According to the reports the several weaknesses could be exploited on a large scale, affecting thousands or all of the application’s 380,000 users at once. Citizen Lab said it alerted the association of South Korean mobile operators that developed and operated the app, also known as MOIBA, to the problems on Aug. 3. Researchers were skeptical about the government-mandated program and should require special scrutiny as it monitor the personal moments of young South Koreans. “This situation raises serious concerns under international human rights law, given the potential of this government-supported mobile application to compromise user privacy, and the widespread adoption of the app as a result of the government mandate,” said Sarah McKune, a senior legal adviser, with The Citizen Lab

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