Twitter users have raised concerns about the possibility of Binance’s Android app containing spyware. This speculation comes after recent revelations suggest that the social video platform, TikTok, contains spyware created by the Chinese government.
According to the Twitter user @ShitcoinSherpa, who posted a certificate issuer’s screenshot, the permissions asked by Binance in its Android app include access to the camera and the ability to record audio. Notedly the app does not appear to have any public features that use these functions:
The delicious irony of shitting on TikTok for being Chinese spyware, but still using the Binance app 🙄 pic.twitter.com/rn9RGW2z88
— Sherpa (Visit CoinHQ.tv) (@ShitcoinSherpa) July 8, 2020
Speaking With Cointelegraph, Binance’s Chief Security Officer Addressed To The Concerns And Clarified Some Inputs:
“The camera is used during the KYC process. The code developed in house within the Binance app definitely does not use the microphone. We have a third-party SDK that requests this permission. It is used during the KYC process. The third-party vendor is Megvii. It is used during KYC for ID scanning. We are trying to determine if we can get rid of this permission. However, it could be that Megvii uses the background noise to determine fraud. We will let you know when we hear back from Megvii to confirm on the point above.”
@ShitcoinSherpa Additionally Clarified:
“I’m not necessarily saying that it *is* spyware, but rather that the permissions it asks for are not necessary to run an exchange app. It has camera & audio permissions, which shouldn’t be necessary for trading. Previous versions, however, have flagged for malware. Whether false-positives or not (as with ESET), those versions still had unnecessary levels of access, and are still flagged. (…) It essentially has the same access to user data as TikTok, and has the same concerns re: China, in my opinion.”
Permission Requests Common In Mobile Apps
Speaking With Cointelegraph On The Condition Of Anonymity, A Source Who Works For A Malware Lab Said:
“It’s not uncommon for apps to ask for more permissions than necessary. It’s not necessarily a sign that they’re up to anything nefarious and users don’t have to grant those permissions.”
The expert adds that Android 11’s recent updates may have led the company to “tighten up” the measures used to combat malicious mobile apps.
In 2017, a Reddit user asked if Binance’s PC or Android software contain “spyware”. At the time, a Binance rep refuted the user’s suggestion:
“Of course it isn’t spyware. Due to the network connections it must make to provide accurate data (required for an exchange platform), it can be misinterpreted by some anti-virus software. It’s simply a false-positive. However, you are free to make your own decisions.”
Binance to Remove In-App Audio Recording Feature In Next Update
Top cryptocurrency exchange Binance has reviewed its Android app code following spyware concerns.
Binance will remove the ability to record audio from its Android app in the upcoming update scheduled for “mid-July”, cryptocurrency exchange CEO Changpeng Zhao, also known as CZ, told Cointelegraph.
Binance App Will Allegedly Drop The Microphone Permission
The company’s privacy-oriented move follows spyware concerns raised by crypto community members last week. Specifically, user @ShitcoinSherpa tweeted certificate issuer screenshots, showing that the permissions asked by Binance in its Android app include access to the camera and the ability to record audio.
At the time, Binance’s chief security officer told Cointelegraph that “the camera is used during the KYC process,” stressing that “the code developed in house within the Binance app definitely does not use the microphone.”
Now, CZ stated that the Binance team has “worked on removing the requirement for the audio recording permission.” He told Cointelegraph:
“Our next version of the Binance app scheduled for release in mid-July, we will remove the audio recording permission. We keep other permissions required to a minimum, for our users’ peace of mind.”
The Updated List Of Permissions Looks More Privacy-Focused Overall
Additionally, CZ shared the list of permissions that are required for KYC procedures and therefore will be featured in the latest Android app version:
When cross-referenced with @ShitcoinSherpa’s certificate issuer’s screenshots, the updated list also excludes a number of permissions that allow the app to get information about the running tasks, access precise location, or check the status of ongoing calls, among other things.
Binance Does Not Sell User Data “Of Any Kind,” CZ Says
Zhao stressed that Binance does not rely on advertising or selling user data “of any kind, such as packaging KYC data together with blockchain analytics.” He also noted the potential danger of using apps with access to user’s clipboard data:
“The thought of looking at the users’ clipboard data scares us. We view that as a major security concern for our users.
Many of our users may use a crypto wallet of some kind. They may have a copy of their seed or private key in their clipboard at some time. Any App collecting this data could steal the users’ funds and should be classified as a trojan horse or virus. We don’t want to go anywhere near that.”
When asked what exactly prompted the exchange to review the app’s code, be it the TikTok security risks that CZ addressed on Twitter yesterday or the above-mentioned findings, the CEO said:
“Keeping our users’ funds #SAFU is always a top priority for us. So as soon as there is chatter about this, we immediately looked into our own app to make sure such concerns are non-existent in our Apps.”