Are Android devices being used as "global wardriving" machines?

Posted by Trent Nouveau

It seems as if Google has been collecting data from virtually all Android devices and Street View cars.

According to security analyst Samy Kamkar, Mountain View is essentially using both Android smartphones and street view cars as "global wardriving" machines.

"When the phone detects any wireless network, encrypted or otherwise, it sends the BSSID (MAC address) of the router along with signal strength, and most importantly, GPS coordinates up to the mothership," explained Kamkar.

"This page allows you to ping that database and find exactly where any wi-fi router in the world is located. You can enter any router BSSID/MAC address to locate the exact physical location of the router... You can also try the demonstration router by hitting 'Probe.'"

It should be noted that Kamkar's report comes just days after Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden revealed Apple's clandestine collection of location-based data from iPhones and 3G iPads running iOS 4. 

"All iPhones appear to log your location to a file called 'consolidated.db.' This contains latitude-longitude coordinates along with a timestamp," the two researchers confirmed.

"Our best guess is that the location is determined by cell-tower triangulation, and the timing of the recording is erratic, with a widely varying frequency of updates that may be triggered by traveling between cells or activity on the phone itself."

As expected, U.S. legislators expressed concern over Apple's stealthy tracking, with Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) saying the existence of such data stored in an unencrypted format raises "serious privacy concerns."