New Smartphone App Secretly Spies on Your Life

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Posted 5 years ago

The vast improvements in smartphones, and the cameras within them, have allowed us to approach photography like never before. Apps such as Instagram have taken photo-sharing to the next level and have made photography appealing to the masses. However, having a camera in your smartphone is not all positive, as a new app has proven.

Designed by Robert Templeman of the US Naval Surface Warfare Center and scientists at the Indiana University, PlaceRaider is an app that is able to hijack your smartphone camera and take pictures of your life. The images gathered can then be used to create a 3D reconstruction of your bedroom, kitchen, workplace, or any other private location.

Scientist behind the app published a research paper, explaining what the app is all about:

Through completely opportunistic use of the phone’s camera and other sensors, PlaceRaider constructs rich, three dimensional models of indoor environments. Remote burglars can thus `download’ the physical space, study the environment carefully, and steal virtual objects from the environment (such as financial documents, information on computer monitors, and personally identifiable information).”

Photography blog PetaPixel published photos from the paper that use the example of bank account information being stolen by looking at a paycheck on a table.

PlaceRaider can run secretly in the background of any smartphone running Android 2.3 and was given to 20 test subjects who were asked to use their phones as normal, resulting in the capture of bank details and information from computers. Scarily, 3D footage was captured from all 20 subjects.

The app is currently only running on Android, but it surely won’t be long before it becomes available for iOS and Windows Phone. It is clear that mobile technology advancing at its current pace is a good thing – not only for consumers, but hackers too, highlighting just how important it is to be careful of what you download.

– Anthony Carter

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