Uber app could secretly record iPhone users' screens

Uber's iOS app had permission to record users screens.                  Uber

Security researchers have said Uber's app for iOS was able to record an iPhone's screen, even if running in the background, reported Gizmodo. Neither Apple nor Uber has mentioned this function on any consumer platform. That exception was never rescinded, and its existence hypothetically allowed Uber, or a nefarious actor with access to Uber's network, to monitor an iPhone user's screen.

It was spotted by security researcher Will Strafach, who described it as "very unusual" and said it was "totally unprecedented" that Apple granted such a permission to the taxi-hailing app company.

After digging around in the code for Uber's app, Strafach discovered that it uses an entitlement called "com.apple.private.allow-explicit-graphics-priority".

Mobile app security analyzer Will Strafach detected a special, undocumented permission or "entitlement" granted by Apple that gives the Uber app the ability to spy on your iPhone without you knowing it.

According to Apple expert Luca Tudesco, it's the equivalent of giving an app keylogging abilities - meaning it can be used to steal sensitive information like log-ins and passwords - and it's unclear why Apple would grant such special privileges to the ride-sharing app, given its already poor record with regard to privacy.

The existence of Uber's access to special iPhone functions is not disclosed in any consumer-facing information included with Uber's app, despite giving the company direct access to features so powerful that Apple nearly always keeps them off limits to outside companies. It said the entitlement is not now being used.

Apple granted Uber special capabilities, including access to certain users' iPhone screens, according to multiple reports published Thursday. The firm added that it is working with Apple to remove the API completely.

Uber is now planning to get rid of the API from its iOS codebase. However, Uber said the entitlement was not used for any such thing like tracking the drivers or putting surveillance on the users.

The screen recording feature in question is taken advantage of by screen recording apps on jailbroken iPhones, allowing apps like iRec to capture screens without needing permission directly from Apple. Separately, a recent update to the iOS software allows users to control the access over their locations.

As of now, there has been no comment from Apple.

"It was used for an old version of the Apple Watch app, specifically to run the heavy lifting of rendering maps on your phone & then send the rendering to the Watch app", an Uber spokesperson told Gizmodo, saying that early Apple Watches couldn't handle this process alone.

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