Uber's iOS app enabled it to record an iPhone's screen
07 October 2017, 12:06 | Bernard Bryant
Uber app can silently record iPhone screens, researcher finds
Will Strafach, a security researcher, discovered this week that Uber had been granted an undocumented private app permission allowing access to the screen-recording feature.
The screen recording capability comes from what's called an "entitlement" - a bit of code that app developers can use for anything from setting up push notifications to interacting with Apple systems such as iCloud or Apple Pay.
The iPhone maker gave Uber the extensive access, which could amount to an invasion of privacy if used to monitor devices, to improve how the Uber app worked with the Apple Watch.
Strafach said that to his knowledge, based on thousands of app binaries he has indexed, Uber is the only third-party app that was given a private entitlement.
At the March 2015 keynote about the watch, Kevin Lynch, Apple's vice president of technology, showcased the Uber app, including its ability to show the driver's location on a map.
An Uber spokesperson toldthe Independent: "This API was only used for a short period of time on an old version of our Apple Watch app".
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"You should know this API isn't connected to anything in our current codebase, meaning it's non-functional and there's no existing feature using it", said the spokesperson in an emailed statement.
Strafach told Gizmodo that although he looked for indications that the entitlement had been used for malicious purposes, he was unable to find any evidence of such activity.
"Essentially it gives you full control over the framebuffer, which contains the colors of each pixel of your screen. So they can potentially draw or record the screen", Luca Todesco, a researcher and iPhone jailbreaker, told news outlet Gizmodo. This may have lead to passwords and other sensitive information getting stolen by a hacker or the brand itself.
Strafach said he didn't know how, "even after [Uber] previously abused" the rules, Uber still "convinced Apple to let them have exclusive access to this privileged" entitlement. Uber was reportedly caught tracking iPhones even after the app was removed from the device. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for using a software that reportedly tracked drivers who worked for both Uber and its competitor Lyft.
According to a report in The New York Times, Apple CEO Tim Cook convened a meeting with Kalanick in 2015 when he found that Uber was directing his employees to help camouflage the ride-hailing app from Apple's engineers. Last month, the FBI opened an investigation into Uber over its "Hell" program, in which the company allegedly tracked drivers for rival company Lyft from 2014 to 2016, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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