Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sour Travels with SugarTrip

As Web browsers are becoming more like operating systems, and phones are becoming more like computers, there are a host of new web applications that are supposed to enhance our lives, making them more fun and functional. However, there are also a host of security and privacy concerns that come along with these applications. For instance, SugarTrip is an application available through Google’s Android platform used with the iPhone. SugarTrip utilizes the GPS units that are integrated into most Android phones to measure street traffic. As users drive their cars, SugarTrip measures how quickly they are traveling and reports their speeds back to a central server. The application will also allow users to view routes taken by other drivers to plan the fastest route. It can also pinpoint cars on a map so when a person parks, it is easy to find the car later.

SugarTrip is being marketed as a green application as it should help drivers plan better driving routes and prevent cars from sitting in traffic. However, it seems to me one should be aware of SugarTrip’s privacy concerns before everyone goes out to download the free app.

I mention this because of my recent trip to Connecticut. I found myself stuck at the E-ZPass toll with an increasingly long line of angry New Yorkers just as anxious as me to flee the city for the weekend. Being that the E-ZPass lane is supposed to be faster than cash, and my E-ZPass failed to pay my toll, they expressed their feelings with angry honking and loud expletives in my direction. After being told by a cop to wait in the E-ZPass help lane, (who knew there was such a thing?) and with passing cars showing their appreciation with friendly one-fingered waves, my E-ZPass was revoked.

Revoked? I hadn’t the faintest clue as to why. Once safely out of NY, I was told my E-ZPass had been revoked thanks to another driver on my account who sped through an E-ZPass toll at 35 mph instead of the requested 10 mph.

And with that tidbit, I realized the significance of my technological conveniences working against me. My E-ZPass was tracking my every trip, measuring the time it takes me to go from one toll booth to the next, recording how many times I travel to Connecticut or Manhattan or who knows where else.

With the SugarTrip application sending our traveling speeds and locations back to some unbeknownst central server, I would take a lesson from my E-ZPass experience and ask yourself whether the convenience is worth the trouble.

Kristen Romonovich is Associate Editor at the Computer Security Institute. She is dedicated to secure green computing, compliance in the cloud and the security of mobile devices. Learn more at our upcoming conference CSI SX: Security Exchange,, May 17-21 in Las Vegas.

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