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Cyanogen to integrate Truecaller into its OS; Reason for security concerns?

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OS-maker Cyanogen has partnered with Truecaller to make the caller ID and blocking service app as its default native dialer app. The platform will roll out this integration in future OTA updates for OnePlus One and YUREKA users, as well as integrate it in future smartphones that come preloaded with Cyanogen OS. The feature will also be integrated in upcoming versions of the OS and will be available for all users across the globe.

Cyanogen mentions that users will be able to uninstall the app if they do not want to use it. Interestingly, according to this VentureBeat report, the OS will first confirm if the user wants to integrate Truecaller before activating the feature, which is strictly opt-in. This is essential, as Truecaller collects data including contact details in the user’s phonebook, the user’s profile info and email address by default.

Note that there are significant privacy issues around Truecaller, since users who have your number are essentially giving away your contact details for anyone to look up from its online directory. While there is an option for users to unlist their numbers, we are unsure about how many people are actually aware that their number is already shared on the service and then go about unlisting their number on the service.

There is also the case when co-founder of truecaller Alan Mamedi had said in December 2012 that it would be all but impossible for someone to access their (Truecaller) servers to get the information. “When it comes to security I cannot give you an example or explain it in technical terms but we have a very talented engineering team that have been working with this” he said.

However, not 6 months later, the Syrian hacking collective revealed that it exploited the TrueCaller website as it was based on an outdated WordPress platform, which gave them access to the admin panel. Syrian Electronic Army broke the news via a tweet saying, “Sorry @TrueCaller, we needed your database, thank you for it.” The hackers openly released TrueCaller’s database host ID, username and password via another tweet. SEA hackers said that they had hacked into the phone directory’s servers and downloaded more than seven databases, the biggest of which had data worth 450GB. TrueCaller had confirmed on its blog that their servers were hacked, but claimed that the attack did not disclose any passwords or credit card information.

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That said, this is an interesting initiative by the increasingly popular ROM-maker. Cyanogen’s ROM, which supports over 250 devices, is also starting to show up as the default OS on various devices. OnePlus One comes with it, so does Micromax’s Yureka. The future generations of Yureka phones will also come with CyanogenMod installed, giving the OS maker a noticeable share of the Indian market.

Truecaller, on the other hand, already sees over 50% of its user base come from India. Given this, CyanogenMod users in India, especially, will get a comprehensive database, while it will give Truecaller a larger user base (and conversely a larger database), in the country (and across the globe).

In March, Cyanogen had raised $80 million from Azim Premji’s Premji Invest with participation from Twitter Ventures, Qualcomm, Telefonica Ventures, Rupert Murdoch and Andreessen Horowitz. The same month Alcatel launched a Cyanogen OS powered smartphone called the OneTouch Hero 2+.

Truedialer launch: Truecaller had introduced an alternate dialer app called Truedialer for Android and Windows Phone that provided information about the number users were about to call and also allowed them to search unknown numbers on Truecaller in October last year. The app works by searching for relevant information on the user’s phone book and on Truecaller’s database then autocompletes the missing information about a specific number.

Truecaller is backed by Atomico, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and Sequoia Capital and had raised $60 million from these investors in October last year. It had also raised $18.8 million from Sequoia Capital in February last year.

Image source: Flickr user Johan Larsson

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