June 26, 2022

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Russian software collects personal information from more than 50,000 applications

The development kit for applications, provided free of charge by the Russian technology company Yandex, collects information and then stores it on Russian servers. The closeness between the company and the Kremlin calls into question the ultimate use of this data.

Your personal data will end up on Russian servers. This Tuesday, March 29th, The British daily Financial Times published tens of thousands of applications Developed using software that retrieves user information. The information technology tool is provided by Yandex, a Russian search engine. Google’s main competitor in this country. The recovered data will then be stored on servers in Russia and Finland.

The Financial Times relied on the research of data processing expert Zack Edwards, who discovered the Yandex index while working on an application as part of the audit campaign of the non-profit organization Me2B Alliance. The British newspaper invited four independent experts to review its work.

Provides SDK (Sotfware Development Kit) software for applications called Yandex Opmetrica. This allows SDK applications to integrate essential functions: graphics, payment service, notification system, etc. Yandex’s software attracts developers because it provides free access to user data that facilitates targeted advertising. Other companies, such as Google, offer similar services.

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In the grip of the Kremlin

AppMetrica’s “open access” makes it one of the most widely used tools on the market: 36% of applications on Google Play go through this SDK, and 11% into the App Store According to Appfigures. Services provided include video games, messaging applications, and virtual private networks (VPNs) designed to browse the Internet without being monitored. According to the Financial Times, seven VPN applications are offered specifically for Ukrainian audiences. In total, applications that have been installed hundreds of millions of times will be affected.

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Although information gathering is now a part of everyday life For every Internet user, popular personal data ends up in the hands of a reputable company close to the Kremlin, which raises all questions.

Yandex is considered a technology champion in Russia. Rarely underlined, the Russian search engine stands out against Google in its home country and retains a 45% market share against the California company by 51%. According to StatCounter. Moscow does not stop at simple navigation because it shines in the local market with all the new digital applications: home delivery, VTC, e-commerce, online video service …

Yandex’s ambitions do not stop at its borders, because the Russian giant offers its VTC service in many countries of the former Soviet camp. In April 2021, the team set foot in France with Yango Tele, an express shopping delivery service.

Russian software collects personal information from more than 50,000 applications
Source: Application stats

The reality of Russian rule in this country, where it would be difficult to achieve such a dimension without reporting to the Kremlin, caters to Yandex. In 2009, before the company was listed on the stock exchange, the government demanded that the technology company coordinate with Russian decision-makers. Since 2016, The committee is committed to removing political content Considered inappropriate by Roskomnadzor (Russian Cnil). Most recently, on March 1, A former Yandex News official, Lev Gershensen, posted a letter on Facebook In it he accused his former colleagues of hiding news of the war and being complicit with the Russian government.

Applications developed for Ukraine

The Financial Times’ revelations are bad for the technology company. Yandex admits to British journalists that it collects information about its “software.” Device, network and IP address “Saved” In both Finland and Russia “, But he called this data” Un customized and highly defined The team says: Although theoretically possible, in practice it is very difficult to identify users only on the basis of information collected. Yandex certainly can not do this. “

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The company said that the data will be collected only after the apps get approval from the users through the Android and iOS apps. Besides, from the moment you accept the general terms and conditions of an application, the data will be retrieved by AppMetrica.

Many companies decided to drop the software after Russia invaded Ukraine. “ When the war broke out we decided to stop using services owned by Russia A spokesman for Gismart, which makes dozens of games through the installed AppMetrica, told the Financial Times. Opera, a browser with a built-in VPN option, has said it will disable the SDK from February 15.

Russian software collects personal information from more than 50,000 applications
Terms of Use of Call Ukraine // Source: BB

On the contrary, More than 2,000 applications have been added to the AppMetrica SDK since the daily advance of the invasion of Ukraine. Many are designed to directly target the Ukrainian people. Among them, the quarter Ukraine A courier service Launched on March 10 in the Play Store. Once the terms are accepted, the application retrieves information about its user and his phone contacts. The email address of concern is listed in Russia: [email protected] As with many Russian services, The confusion of their applications now arises.

Further

Marines from Marine Corps Force Cyberspace Command, January 2022. // Source: Jacob Osborne