Both Android and the iPhone allow you to replace the standard keyboard with a third-party one. By its very nature, though, a keyboard has full access to everything you type on it—from private messages to passwords and credit card numbers. Some of the keyboard’s data is often sent over the internet, where it could be stolen—or even abused by the keyboard’s developer.
This isn’t theoretical, either: this has already happened. And it’s exactly why we have a problem trusting third-party smartphone keyboards.
The ai.type and SwiftKey Leaks
Ai.type is a popular keyboard for Android and the iPhone that claims over 40 million users worldwide. On December 5, 2017, the personal data of over 31 million customers leaked online. Their database server was literally left alone without a password to protect it, so anyone could access the information.
In additional to phone numbers, names, and email addresses, text typed using the keyboard was also stolen. The company had promised never to “learn” from password fields, but ZDNet “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.”
This isn’t the first time a keyboard has inadvertently leaked data. The popular SwiftKey keyboard had a data leak after it was purchased by Microsoft. The SwiftKey keyboard began suggesting private email addresses to other SwiftKey users, when those email addresses should never have been exposed.
Why Keyboards Are So Dangerous
Third-party keyboards are so dangerous because they want to be “smart”. Keyboards aren’t content to just live entirely on your phone and allow you to enter letters. Instead, they try to perform advanced text prediction and personalized autocorrect. To personalize your experience, they often upload data about how and what you…
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