The app "Cyber Security Zone" is part of the efforts by South Korea's government to curb what authorities consider excessive cellphone use by young people
In this May 15, 2015 file photo, a promotional banner of mobile apps that block harmful contents, is posted on the door at a mobile store in Seoul, South Korea. The banner reads: "Young smartphone users, you must install apps that block harmful content." A South Korean child-monitoring smartphone app that was removed from the market in 2015 after it was found to be riddled with security holes has been reissued under a new name and puts children at risk, researchers said Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File), photo: AP/Lee Jin-man, File
11 of September 2017 13:01:07
SEOUL – A South Korean child-monitoring smartphone app that was removed from the market in 2015 after it was found to be riddled with security flaws has been reissued under a new name and still puts children at risk, researchers said Monday.The app "Cyber Security Zone" is part of government efforts to curb what authorities consider excessive cellphone use by young people. Parents are required by law to install monitoring software on smartphones for all children 18 and under.The app is almost identical to a previous system, "Smart Sheriff," which left children's private information vulnerable to hackers, according to Internet watchdog Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. Both were developed under the auspices of MOIBA, the industry association for South Korean cellphone service providers."The flaws in the apps open the door to possible breaches of sensitive information including passwords, phone numbers, and other user data," Citizen Lab said in a statement.
"Smart Sheriff" was intended to send alerts to parents if children swore or talked about sex, bullying or feeling depressed. But experts were scathing about its lack of security. Cure53, a German auditing firm, called the program "fundamentally broken."Citizen Lab and Cure53 say the app appears to have been rebranded as "Cyber Security Zone" — the equivalent of putting a fresh coat of paint on a dangerous old clunker."Users are being misled," said the Citizen Lab report.MOIBA denied the two systems were the same and an official of the group said a review by the government's Korean Internet & Security Agency found security for "Cyber Security Zone" satisfactory."We cannot agree to the opinion that the application was not developed with security in mind," said the official, Noh Yong-lae.Noh said MOIBA cut ties with the developer of "Smart Sheriff" and hired another company to update and develop apps.
NEW Citizen Lab Report: Safer Without: Korea’s Child Monitoring & Filtering Apps https://t.co/rUGu4qmKfF— citizen lab (@citizenlab) 11 de septiembre de 2017
KISA officials who looked at the Citizen Lab report said their agency's audit failed to catch at least one security lapse: the app's developer had not encrypted a key to the password. That stemmed from the app's design."They should not have built the app this way," said Kim Chan-il, a KISA manager. He said the government and MOIBA should make sure to hire developers who pay attention to security and have enough time to build an app.An audit by KISA "does not guarantee security against all weaknesses," Kim said.Rates of smartphone and internet use in South Korea are among the world's highest. The government operates filters to block access to pro-North Korean websites and material deemed pornographic.South Korean authorities believe monitoring and censoring children's smartphone use is part of the state's duty to protect teenagers against harmful content such as pornography.There is broad public support for the government to stop online behavior that is deemed to be an addiction. The government spends public money to help users break habits of excessive computer gaming and internet use.
NEW REPORT The Kids are Still at Risk: Update to Citizen Lab’s “Are the Kids Alright?” Smart Sheriff report https://t.co/NP7gK2q2g8— citizen lab (@citizenlab) 1 de noviembre de 2015
YOUKYUNG LEERAPHAEL SATTER