The smartphones of today have come a long, long way from the “bricks” of the 1980s and are capable of doing far more than anyone could have imagined when mobiles were first introduced.
You’ll know that already of course. I bumped into someone fairly recently who wanted us to look at mobile phones differently – he said that they’re now just mobile computers. In a way he’s right, but these computers have a continual problem when you actually … use them. Battery life. The very last thing phone manufacturers and networks want is for users to run out of power when there’s no charger handy. It’s a pain for you and for them too. Here at Coolsmartphone we’ve seen various methods of resolving this, with handset manufacturers trying ways to monitor and shutdown apps that are sucking battery life. Unfortunately, one of these is thought to seriously compromise users’ online security. In a report called “The leaking battery A privacy analysis of the HTML5 Battery Status API” security researchers have found that a piece of HTML5 script can potentially help cyber-criminals to track your activity online.
How? If you’re using Firefox, Chrome or Opera, there is an API which can tell websites how much battery power there is left and even how long it will be until the power eventually runs out. When they receive this information, websites can provide a less resource intense mode that uses less power to browse on a smartphone, therefore extending battery life. It’s a great idea, but the privacy and security problems emerge from the information that the website receives about battery life. It consists of two figures: the percentage of battery power remaining, and the number of seconds that will need to elapse before the power runs out. Together they are estimated to create one of around 14 million combinations and to generate data that can possibly be used to identify a phone.
Although seemingly innocuous, it’s another bit of information – along with GPS data, cookies and all the app access that is granted when you install a game or application on your phone. Add this together and your smartphone is leaking quite a bit of your information. Generally speaking, users prefer to give away less information, but – mostly without checking thoroughly – they’re giving away quite a bit.
As more and more technology and devices enter and become part of our lives, it becomes harder and harder to realise just how much of our privacy is compromised. Phones sharing battery charge is just the latest example of how information about us is being shared without our permission, and usually knowledge. Who knows what we will find out next, websites getting information about our photo library, or any app? This is the reason people need to become aware of how to control their privacy, as there are tools like VPNs who can really help with this.
As a result of their work, the team behind the report also recommend that permission should be given before websites obtain this battery information and they also believe that users should be made more aware that it is being given at all. Because the accuracy of the information also makes a user identifiable they also recommend that it should be “rounded-up” to create greater anonymity.