HTC Ordered to Fix Mobile Device Security Flaws
Leading mobile device manufacturer HTC America has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it failed to take reasonable steps to secure the software it developed for its smartphones and tablet computers, introducing security flaws that placed sensitive information about millions of consumers at risk.
The settlement requires HTC America to develop and release software patches to fix vulnerabilities found in millions of HTC devices. In addition, the settlement requires HTC America to establish a comprehensive security program designed to address security risks during the development of HTC devices and to undergo independent security assessments every other year for the next 20 years.
HTC America manufactures mobile devices based on the Android, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone operating systems. HTC America has customized the software on these devices in order to differentiate itself from competitors and to comply with the requirements of mobile network operators.
The Commission charged that HTC America failed to employ reasonable and appropriate security practices in the design and customization of the software on its mobile devices.
Among other things, the complaint alleged that HTC America failed to provide its engineering staff with adequate security training, failed to review or test the software on its mobile devices for potential security vulnerabilities, failed to follow well-known and commonly accepted secure coding practices, and failed to establish a process for receiving and addressing vulnerability reports from third parties.
The FTC alleged that malware placed on consumers' devices without their permission could be used to record and transmit information entered into or stored on the device, including, for example, financial account numbers and related access codes or medical information such as text messages received from healthcare providers and calendar entries concerning doctor's appointments.
The settlement not only requires the establishment of a comprehensive security program, but also prohibits HTC America from making any false or misleading statements about the security and privacy of consumers' data on HTC devices.
HTC America and its network operator partners are also in the process of deploying the security patches required by the settlement to consumers' devices. Many consumers have already received the required security updates. The FTC encourages consumers to apply the updates as soon as possible.