New smartphone hacking threat emerges

The rapid development of software and devices is creating new concerns for consumers and businesses as security issues arise.


Software and device developers are in a challenging position in today’s world. Consumers’ insatiable demand for new technology, new apps and new ways to change the world means that these professionals are tasked with continually creating innovative products.

Unfortunately, people in IT jobs aren’t the only ones taking an innovative approach to embracing technology. The digital era has inadvertently created a digital criminal, and recent trends suggest that even the most innocuous features in a device or piece of software can be a gateway for cyber criminals.

The battery level on smartphones is just one example of this. While it’s intended to be nothing more than a convenient piece of information for the user, some people have discovered more nefarious uses.

How is the battery meter a security threat?

As all 14 million Australians who possess smartphones will know, each device has a display for telling us how much longer our battery life will last. As of a recent update to HTML5, this is being read by more than just the device’s users.

The update lets HTML5-hosted websites communicate with this meter, with the intention that these sites can shift to a less data- and power-intensive version if they detect that the device is low on power.

While its intention is innocent enough, some threats have emerged from the development, with speculation that it could be used to track a user’s location. On top of this, the World Wide Web Consortium reported that websites do not need to ask permission when using this ‘feature’, which does take some of the control out of the hands of users.

What does this mean for the future of security?

A July 27 article from the Deloitte University Press believes this will continue to be a concern in the future as the Internet of Things (IoT) trend continues to gather momentum. The more devices that become connected, the more opportunities there are for security breaches.

This isn’t intended to scare people away from further developing technology innovations, but rather to raise awareness for some of the considerations that need to be monitored before products are released to the public.

According to the organisation, “a single vulnerable device can leave an entire ecosystem open to attack, with potential disruptions ranging from individual privacy breaches to massive breakdowns of public systems”.

Businesses in particular need to be aware of these trends heading into the future, as the networks of devices they will depend on need to be developed with security in mind.