With more and more advanced features with each new model, Smartphones have also become more vulnerable to outside interference. Interestingly, there are also some features that threaten security. And when we say features, we don’t mean accidental architectural flaws. They are features that were put intentionally in your smartphones. They work behind the scenes and more importantly make our phones less secure.
OnePlus, Apple and Google are the companies that have added these controversial features in their software. Hence, every phone using their software are prone to attacks. Worse, you cannot even override these features through general security measures. The intention behind introducing such features was to enhance user experience or performance. But, it is a disrespect to customer privacy. Let us dive into the details.
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Google’s Cell ID
Your current location is being sent to Google without your consent.
You will be located even if your GPS is turned off, apps are not used or even if your device doesn’t have a sim card.Google does it with the help of closeness to cell towers, hence the feature is named as “Cell ID”.
The Real Purpose:- Google uses Cell ID to code an additional signal to enable quick message delivery. But due to controversy, Google has planned to kill the feature remotely within a month. You may see this feature after sometime in future updates. Though intentions were genuine, enabling such feature without user consent is wrong.
Control Center In iOS
The iOS settings enables user to switch on or off bluetooth and Wifi. When you switch off your bluetooth or Wifi, it disconnects the device with existing connections. Then, it switches off the bluetooth or Wifi radios. You cannot use Wifi or bluetooth on your device as long as you don’t switch it on again. This is how the process operates but there has been a small tweak in the operation after Control center was introduced.
Control center provides quick access to many features including switching on or off bluetooth and Wifi. If you switch off your bluetooth or Wifi through Control center, it disconnects existing connections but does not switch off bluetooth or Wifi radios as it happened with the settings app. In fact, bluetooth or Wifi automatically reassociates with any bluetooth devices or hotspots if they look like in range. Additionally, the device reconnects with other devices if it’s 5 am or the device has been restarted.
At 5am, the device automatically connects with the previously connected device or hotspot if it is within range.
You can still go old school and completely switch off your bluetooth or Wifi via Settings app. But, completing the action through Control center is a delusion.
The Real Purpose:-
Control center was introduced for convenience.
But without proper feature education, it is like making fool out of customers.
OnePlus has introduced a featured called “EngineerMode” that can root smartphones. Such features are normally removed from phones before they are distributed in public but OnePlus has introduced it as an added feature.
“EngineerMode” feature can be activated through command line or an Android activity launcher called “dialer command”. The feature allows root access to phone. Even though the access is password protected, passwords are weak. It means that a person having physical access to phone can easily intrude into it. Other companies like Xiaomi and Asus are also suspected to contain similar features in their smartphones.
However, OnePlus does not see EngineerMode as a security threat. Still the company assures to remove it in the next software update cycle. Even if the feature is not a security threat (as assured by the company), including such feature and not informing users is wrong.
Why Transparency Is Required?
Introducing features that challenge customer security and then not informing customers display arrogance towards them. Each case shows that companies do not take customer acknowledgement into account while deciding such questionable features. If Android smartphones sent customer location without their concern, Apple did not care to properly educate customers about their “Bluetooth/Wifi toggle” feature in the Control Center. OnePlus also did not consider informing about “rooting the phone” feature to their customers. More importantly, the companies acknowledged these features only after researchers digging deep into the matter. This again raises a question that how many more such features do exist in our smartphone that we don’t know.
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Transparency reinforces trust and shows respect for customers. Worse, it was missing from the most celebrated tech giants.