A study conducted by a Toronto-based research lab on UC Browsers, a popular mobile web browser, finds major security and privacy issues in the English language and Chinese language editions its Android version. The study found that both versions of the application leak a significant amount of personal and personally identifiable data; as a result, any network operator or in-path actor on the network can acquire a user’s personally identifiable information (including cellular subscriber information, mobile device identifiers, geolocation data, and search queries) through trivial decrypting of traffic or by observing unencrypted traffic.
The study was conducted by Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, Canada focusing on advanced research and development at the intersection of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), human rights, and global security.
The major findings in the study includes user data, including IMSI, IMEI, Android ID, and Wi-Fi MAC address are sent without encryption to Umeng, an Alibaba analytics tool, in the Chinese language version. User geolocation data, including longitude/latitude and street name, are transmitted without encryption by AMAP, an Alibaba mapping tool, in the Chinese language version. User search queries are sent without encryption to the search engine Shenma (in the Chinese language version) or Yahoo! India and Google (in the English language version).
“The transmission of personally identifiable information, geolocation data and search queries without encryption represents a privacy risk for users because it allows anyone with access to the data traffic to identify users and their devices, and collect their private search data,” the study says.
In the Chinese language version, when users attempt to delete their private data by clearing the application’s cache their DNS lookups are not deleted. “The cached record of DNS lookup data would allow for a third party with access to the device to identify the websites that a user visited,” the study warns.
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