Popular iPhone and iPad Apps Reportedly 'Snooping' on Pasteboard Data

According to new research by Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk, dozens of popular iOS apps are reading the contents of the pasteboard without user consent, which could include sensitive information.

The investigation discovered that many popular apps, such as TikTok, 8 Ball Pool™, and Hotels.com, quietly read any text found in the pasteboard every time the app is opened.

iOS and iPadOS apps have unrestricted access to the system-wide pasteboard, also known as the clipboard, as of iOS 13.3.

Text left in the pasteboard may be inconsequential, but it could also be highly sensitive data such as passwords or financial information. The potential security risks of this vulnerability have previously been investigated by Bakry and Mysk, where they found that precise location information was leaking through the system pasteboard.

A diverse range of apps, from popular games and social networking apps, to news apps of major news organizations such as Fox News or The Wall Street Journal, were examined using standard Apple development tools. Many of these apps do not provide any UI that manages text, yet they read the text content of the pasteboard every time they are opened.

It is also of note that if Universal Clipboard is enabled, an app may also access whatever has been copied on a Mac.

What exactly these apps do with the contents of the pasteboard once they have read it is unknown.

Tag: iOS 13

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
2 weeks ago
I assume we'll get an additional permissions dialog to cover this soon.

It can be useful: in many instances, apps will read the pasteboard to determine if a URL or other information (like numbers related to their services) were copied from the browser so the app can shortcut a response to that data. One of my favorite instances is Deliveries: If you have a copied tracking number or link, it'll ask and can automatically start the adding process for you.

But I also get how allowing anyone to freely read it can be a major issue.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
2 weeks ago
Apple should just have a policy that any action like this, which takes customer data in a way which is not part of the core experience and not intuitive to the user based on the nature of the app will result in an immediate and lifetime ban.

all this crap would stop. Otherwise, if it’s just rule after rule, but in a culture of stealing personal data, Apple will never catch up.. App publishers will think of ways around the rules or do something not covered yet by a rule—like stealing clipboard info. Just make it a death sentence for your business if you steal customer data will result in a lifetime ban. Then it will stop—at least from the big companies.

It’s like the government Rico statues. Very broad but allows any type of organized crime to be prosecuted.

ive deleted every app I don’t absolutely need on my phone. I now don’t download apps just to play with for awhile because I don’t know what tricks they play with my data and how they track me. And no, a privacy policy which no human reads doesn’t solve the problem.

And I don’t want tons of security dialogs and privacy settings which take time and constant surveillance to monitor. It’s facebook’s dirty trick, and iOS privacy settings are becoming equally cumbersome.

As more and more apps become spyware in ways consumers cannot imagine, it will kill the core of the app economy.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
2 weeks ago
I do not trust a single app nowadays. Especially on iOS, iPadOS, watchOS. (As opposed to macOS. Android apps are at another level of badness.)

Why?

Most companies are too cheap to hire the skills to develop their app from scratch. So they outsource the development to 3rd parties who use code from all over the place without even knowing what it does. So even if the company putting the app out doesn’t have malicious intent, in reality they themselves have no idea what the app really does beneath the hood.

Look at apps from even reputable companies like AT&T and Comcast and they are so buggy and have such a poor, unfriendly UI, you know they are orphan projects within the company with tiny budgets and little oversight.

Kind of like Apple “discovering” that one of its suppliers is using child labor, because they have no idea what is really going on at their outsourced partners.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
2 weeks ago
I would like to see an option in the iOS settings to clear the pasteboard on a regular basis. If I copy something in one app and paste it in another app I don’t need that content anymore, so have it being cleared for example every 30 seconds would be no problem for me.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
2 weeks ago
I would welcome a system-wide default to restrict all reading of the copy/paste buffer to be purely manually-instigated by the user, always. I have often thought this was a potential issue and behaved accordingly, but I don’t think it’s something the average user should have to worry about, the default should be to block reading it unless given specific, informed permission.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
2 weeks ago
That is why I try to use as much Apple apps as possible. And everything else done within the browser.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Seemingly Unreleased Version of Logic Pro X With Live Loops Appears on Apple's Education Site [Updated]

Sunday March 29, 2020 7:23 am PDT by Hartley Charlton
Update: Apple has replaced the Logic Pro X image with an older version. Original story follows. A seemingly unreleased version of Logic Pro X has appeared on Apple's education site, as spotted by a Reddit user. The image from Apple's education products page shows a 16-inch MacBook Pro running Logic Pro X, but with a familiar interface that looks extremely similar to GarageBand's Live Loops ...

Zoom Updates iOS App to Stop Sending Data to Facebook

Friday March 27, 2020 5:35 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Zoom, a video conferencing app that many people are using at the current time to keep in touch with coworkers while working from home, was sending data to Facebook without disclosing the data sharing to customers. As of today, Zoom has updated its iOS app to remove the SDK that was providing data to Facebook through the Login with Facebook feature, according to Motherboard, the site that...

Apple Suppliers Worried About iPhone Demand, Production Ramp-Up for New iPhones Reportedly Postponed

Friday March 27, 2020 5:56 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Most of the factories in China that supply devices and components to Apple are back to churning out products, but Apple suppliers are said to be worried about how much demand there will be for the current iPhone models and the new iPhones expected in the fall. According to Reuters, a senior official at one of Apple's major supply companies said that orders for quarter ending in March are...

2020 iPad Pro Teardown Provides Closer Look at LiDAR Scanner and Confirms Incremental Update

Saturday March 28, 2020 9:56 am PDT by Hartley Charlton
iFixit today shared a video teardown of the new iPad Pro, which Apple unveiled earlier this month. iFixit found that most of the internals of the 2020 iPad Pro are the same as the 2018 model, confirming that the device is a relatively incremental update. The most notable new feature seen inside the new iPad Pro was the LiDAR scanner, which measures the distance to surrounding objects up...

Apple Watch Series 6 Could Feature Touch ID Fingerprint Sensor, Pulse Oximetry and Sleep Tracking Support

Friday March 27, 2020 11:28 am PDT by Juli Clover
The upcoming Apple Watch Series 6 set to be released this fall could include a Touch ID fingerprint sensor built into the crown of the device, according to Israeli site The Verifier, which cites "senior sources" who have worked with its staff for a "number of years" as the source of the rumor. It's not clear how the alleged Touch ID fingerprint sensor would be implemented, as the Digital...

Bloomberg: Apple's 5G iPhone Still on Schedule for Fall Launch, But Future Products Could Be Delayed

Monday March 30, 2020 2:40 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Apple's 5G iPhone is still on track to launch within the company's typical annual fall release schedule, according to a new Bloomberg report on filed on Monday. Signs are that Apple's Chinese-centric manufacturing -- of which Hon Hai is the linchpin -- is slowly getting back on track. The next iPhones with 5G wireless capabilities remain on schedule to launch in the fall, partly because mass...

Kuo: Apple to Launch Several Macs With Arm-Based Processors in 2021, USB4 Support Coming to Macs in 2022

Thursday March 26, 2020 8:19 pm PDT by Joe Rossignol
Apple plans to launch several Mac notebooks and desktop computers with its own custom designed Arm-based processors in 2021, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Kuo believes that Arm-based processors will significantly enhance the competitive advantage of the Mac lineup, allow Apple to refresh its Mac models without relying on Intel's processor roadmap,...

Top Stories: Hands-On With 2020 iPad Pro and MacBook Air, iOS and iPadOS 13.4 Released, iPhone 12 Delay?

Saturday March 28, 2020 6:00 am PDT by MacRumors Staff
After last week's flurry of product launches, Apple's new iPad Pro and MacBook Air have started to make their way into consumers' hands, and we've gone hands-on with both of them this week. Apple this week also released iOS and iPadOS 13.4 (as well as macOS, watchOS, and tvOS updates) with a number of new features and improvements. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. ...

Deals: Huge Refurbished iPhone Sale Discounts iPhone 7, 8, X, XR, and XS (From $120)

Friday March 27, 2020 5:47 am PDT by Mitchel Broussard
Woot is back today with a big sale on refurbished iPhones, including markdowns on the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Woot. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. As with every Woot purchase, those...

Apple Releases ProRes RAW Beta for Windows

Monday March 30, 2020 9:33 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple today released ProRes RAW for Windows in a beta capacity (via Mark Gurman), with the software designed to allow ProRes RAW and ProRes RAW HQ video files to be watched in compatible applications on Windows machines. According to Apple, the software will let the files be played within several Adobe apps: Adobe After Effects (Beta) Adobe Media Encocder (Beta) Adobe Premiere...