Dec. 6, 2011 at 10:28 AM ET
Android smartphone and tablet owners worried that their devices may be carrying an unwelcome hitchhiker that could be recording keystrokes and locations of dropped calls can now download a free app that will let them know if Carrier IQ is on board.
Over the weekend, Lookout Mobile Security released a new, free Android app, Carrier IQ Detector, that is designed to help consumers sniff out the Carrier IQ mobile diagnostic software, which has lit up security flags lately as a possible tracker of phone user information and location. (Carrier IQ denies the allegations and claims its software is there just to help major wireless carriers such as AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile improve their service and network.) The Lookout app is available now in the Android Market.
As Lookout puts it on the description of the app:
Security researchers have recently determined that a number of consumer mobile devices contain pre-installed software from Carrier IQ. While this software appears to be designed to help mobile network operators improve coverage through metrics tracking, it does not provide a clear opt-out path for users. Additionally, it can be difficult for non-technical users to determine whether or not their handset is affected. We've developed the Carrier IQ Detector to aid in this process in an effort to keep mobile users fully informed about what their phone is doing.
I installed mine last night on my Samsung Droid Charge and whew, no Carrier IQ on my phone. (Maybe already having the Lookout app on my phone helps, since it continually scans for foreign invasions of my mobile system.)
But what happens if you find out you do have it on your phone? Does this app help remove it? Nope. This app is strictly about informing you if Carrier IQ is on your phone.
This application does not remove Carrier IQ software from your device. Because Carrier IQ software is deeply integrated with handset firmware, users would be required to attain special device privileges in order to remove it. Side effects of this process have the potential to put users at further risk of malware infection while making devices ineligible to receive firmware updates in the future. If you are sure you know what you are doing and would like to remove Carrier IQ software from your phone, there are a number of guides available online.
If you have made previous attempts to remove Carrier IQ software from your device, our Detector may still report its presence. This can be caused by incomplete removal attempts that do not remove all relevant files.
The detector app has already jumped into the 50,000 - 100,000 downloads category since becoming available Saturday.