Apple Gave Uber Unprecedented Access to Your iPhone Screen: Researcher

Uber app can silently record iPhone screens, researcher finds

Uber has acknowledged the situation, saying Apple gave it permission to use the private entitlement for a previous version of its Apple Watch app, to aid in the supply of maps on the iPhone.

"It looks like no other third-party developer has been able to get Apple to grant them a private sensitive entitlement of this nature", Will Strafach, chief executive of Sudo Security Group, told Gizmodo.

An Uber spokesperson said that the code was used to improve the rendering on its Apple Watch app. "Entitlement" is a code that app developers can use for anything from setting up push notifications to interacting with Apple systems like iCloud or Apple Pay. "This API was only used for a short period of time for an old version of our Apple Watch app".

The entitlement is called "com.apple.private.allow-explicit-graphics-priority" and when granted, the entitlement allows the developer of an app to read or write to the iPhone framebuffer. At the meeting, Cook threatened to remove Uber from the iOS App Store.

Experts worry that although entitlement isn't intended for malicious use, it could be used by Uber or a hacker who broke into Uber's network to silently monitor activity on an iPhone user's screen, allowing them to collect passwords or other personal data.

Apple expert and jailbreak author Luca Todesco told ZDNet that it was an "extremely risky use case". "It's not connected to anything in our current codebase", Uber's spokesperson explained.

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"I find this very frightening and unsafe", said Apple security expert Luca Todesco, a sentiment shared by other experts in the field. "It can potentially steal passwords etc".

"I guess there is some kind of extremely special relationship there, considering Apple granted them exclusive access to a privileged IOKit API a little while after they were abusing other unrelated IOKit APIs in violation of the App Store rules (with no repercussions at all)", Strafach surmised.

Uber told Business Insider the code was not now being used and was essentially a vestige from an earlier version of its Apple Watch app, but it set off alarm bells among experts.

The entitlement first appeared in Uber's app around the time of the original Watch launch in 2015, according to Strafach.

If Apple gave Uber access, which is highly likely according to Strafach, then it would signal a potentially unlikely collaboration.

Although the entitlement isn't intended for any malicious goal, researchers worry that an unethical hacker who manages to break into Uber network might also get access to these sensitive permissions. The company was earlier this year found using software to track location of drivers of rival company, Lyft, in the US.

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