Google has removed from its Android store about 15 applications suspected of collecting personal information from their users on behalf of a subcontractor of the US intelligence services, reveal it Wall Street JournalWednesday April 6.
These applications, very popular for some, contain code designed by a Panamanian company, Measurement Systems S. de RL, which presents itself as specialized in collecting statistics for the makers of applications. According to the investigation of the American daily, the company is actually a subsidiary of Vostrom, a subcontractor of several security services in the United States. An American firm that most likely acted as a link between the two companies, Measurement Systems S. de RL and Vostrom, was suddenly dissolved after a request for maintenance was sent by the Wall Street Journal†
According to IT security company AppCensus, which uncovered the existence of this spy code, Measurement Systems was able to access large amounts of highly personal information, including the location or phone number of users of these applications, and in some cases even some of the contents of certain messages. In an email to Wall Street JournalMeasuring Systems Denied “any connection to US defense contractors or to Volstrom” † however, the domain name used by the company was registered by an employee of Volstrom.
Targets in the Middle East and Iran
Measurement Systems approached several popular application publishers in the Middle East to convince them to use their software for a fee. Among the checked applications were several Muslim prayer services, used by more than 10 million people worldwide, a QR code scanner and a road radar detector. Data siphons had already discovered in 2020 and 2021 in prayer apps for Muslims and again it was suspected that the recipient of the data was a US security agency.
According to internal company documents and testimonials from business partners collected by the Wall Street Journal, Measurement Systems was specifically looking to collect data from users in the Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe, and Asia. An unusual practice, the publishers of data collection services generally seek primarily users from North America and Western Europe, whose data can be resold at a much higher price.
The company’s list of geographic areas largely overlaps with US intelligence priorities – one application, a weather forecasting service, is particularly popular in Iran.