Science

A popular virtual keyboard app leaks 31 million users' personal data

A popular virtual keyboard app leaks 31 million users' personal data

The database, which appeared to contain information exclusively from Android users, belonged to AI.type co-founder Eitan Fitusi.

The company also promises to "never share your data or learn from password fields", but we saw one table containing more than 8.6 million entries of text that had been entered using the keyboard, which included private and sensitive information, like phone numbers, web search terms, and in some cases concatenated email addresses and corresponding passwords. Installation of the app on an iPhone requires "Full access" for it to work, granting it access to a massive amount of information, including past keyboard data. The company claims its app has been downloaded more than 40 million times, with additional keyboards that support over 40 languages from Farsi to Slovenian. Not only do they tend to offer more features over the stock keyboard shipping on most smartphones, but in some cases, they provide better auto-correct and prediction technology than the first-party alternatives. The data was only secured after several attempts to contact Fitusi, who acknowledged the security lapse this weekend. The server also stored precise location data about the user, including city and country.

"Researchers were able to access the data and details of 31,293,959 users".

ZDNet who obtained a portion of the database to verify the information collected by the servers made a few scarier revelations to the breach.

AI.type says on its website that user's privacy 'is our main concern'.

It seems that users who downloaded the freemium version of Ai.type had more data exposed than those with the paid version as the free one collects more information from devices.




The boss of the Israeli company behind the app admitted the breach but said most of the data was not sensitive. Accompanying the numbers were the make and model of the device, its screen resolution and the version of Android it was running.

While many of those details amount to basic records, the database also house records that revealed more sensitive information about users.

"It raises the question once again if it is really worth it for consumers to submit their data in exchange for free or discounted products or services that gain full access to their devices", he added.

A large number of the records also included the phone number and telecom provider of users as well as some specific details of their public Google profile including their dates of birth, genders, profile photos and email addresses. In particular he denied that IMEI information was collected, said the collected geo-location data was not accurate, and pointed out that user behavior data was only collected from ads that were clicked.

"It is clear that data is valuable and everyone wants access to it for different reasons", he said.

Alex Kernishniuk, VP of strategic alliances, Kromtech said: "This is once again a wakeup call for any company that gathers and stores data on their customers to protect, secure, and audit their data privacy practices". However, he outlined that most of the data was insensitive.


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