New report claims FinFisher spyware can take over your BlackBerry but it's not quite that simple

New report claims FinFisher spyware can take over your BlackBerry but it's not that simple
By Bla1ze on 29 Aug 2012 05:42 pm EDT

A new report coming from the University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs’ Citizen Lab and Bloomberg today claims FinFisher spyware made by U.K. based Gamma Group can take control of your BlackBerry as well as iPhone and even go far as to turn on a device’s microphone, track its location and monitor e-mails, text messages and voice calls.

But like most things of this nature, it's not all as it seems really because of a number of reasons. In order for it to work on BlackBerry devices, a user would of course need to install the application first off and if even that point was reached, one would have to go ahead and physically change the default settings of the apps security settings in order for it to run. Nevermind the fact that it's actually been configured to only service a small amount of carriers and countries. If you're on BES, it can also be blocked from even being able to be downloaded.

You should be aware of it. You shouldn't install apps of an unknown nature. You should leave your security settings at the default. But in the end, like mostly all Spyware designed for a BlackBerry smartphone, if the precautions are taken there is no way for it to run without some sort of user interaction. The same can't be said about other systems which allow for silent installations.

In other words, the sky isn't falling and any nudies you may have are still safe.

Discuss more in the CrackBerry Forums

Source: Bloomberg

Reader comments

New report claims FinFisher spyware can take over your BlackBerry but it's not quite that simple


All programmers who create viruses to ruin other peoples computers need to get drenched in gasoline, set on fire, put in front of a speeding bus, stomp out the flames, and feed their rotting corpses to flesh eating piranhas!!!
Playbook, the one and only

'You should leave your security settings at the default.'

But if the default access settings for the app are approved (as I'll bet 99.99% of users do without a second thought when installing a new app) won't the default settings work against you?

You're implying a change from the default. Out of the box default permissions wouldn't allow for this. A user would physically need to go in and change the out of the box settings for this to run. If "your" default is to allow all, then yes, they would work against you. But again, your suggestion implies and initial change to begin with.

Plus, you'd have to be a complete moron to give any old app allow permissions without knowing who / where it came from.

Interesting, thanks Bla1ze, did not know that (except for the moron part ;)). As for 'allow' permissions, I'm always surprised as to how unconcerned some users seem about apps wanting access to personal information when it doesn't appear relevant to the app, but I seem to be in the minority with that one, and it's obviously a different issue to this.

You're not alone on this. Many apps are asking for way too much permission, even the legit ones. For example, Dropbox asks for a whole slew of things outside of what I would consider to be its functionality, including location data, security timer reset and organizer data. Even if the settings are Deny, it asks for permission every time the app starts. Fortunately most of these weird requests can be denied without loss of functionality, except for Organizer Data. But why on earth would Dropbox need access to my calendar and address book?!?!?!

I always thought it would be so easy to pick some personal information but have never done it just because of dev morals lol

But yea.. It would be easy to get personal information of people who are careless. Becareful everyone, not all developers are as nice as I am!

I agree completely. It seems just about every App I download wants total access to everything, or at least more then should be required. I find it rather annoying really and I wouldn't mind if RIM put a stop to it. I think what bothers me most is there is no explanation, or justification given to the user and being the cynical, paranoid old fart that I am, I give away as little as possible.

...I wouldn't instal ANY apps for a while... lol

BlackBerry Torch 9860 BBOS 7.1
BlackBerry PlayBook LTE O/S 2.xx.xxxx
BlackBerry PlayBook 32GB O/S 2.xx.xxxx

I am never worried about such things. BB offers the best security out there, and the felxibility to know what and when you are installing it on your phone. Not something other phones have. A little something that makes all the difference.

News media wants to attract attention so they create another headline kicking Blackberry when it's down. Sure they don't say that most other platforms have more security issues and obviously if you install and give full permissions to a rogue program, of course it will have access to your data. But kick someone when they are down and you get more ratings and news readers.

This could be one of the worst articles not this CrackBerry post, and not the one from the University either. The one from Toronto is a great read full of nothing but facts, the Bloomberg article is a joke...I doubt the writer even read the whole thing...Apple and Android install this app on their own, on BlackBerry it takes several interactions from the user...sad...

Which I have found to be quite typical of Bloomberg. The truth about BlackBerrys and RIM is not something Bloomberg is remotely interested in discussing. I think they're owned by BGR (Baby Geller Rant).