A popular child surveillance app in South Korea has been taken off the market after security experts questioned the safety of the software.
The app, which is known as “Smart Sheriff”, has been removed from the Google Play Store, and users are being told to switch to alternative child monitoring programs. The government of South Korea will supposedly terminate the service in the near future.
MOIBA, the maker of Smart Sheriff, declined to comment on the matter.
Less than one year ago, government and education officials sent letters to parents that encouraged them to install Smart Sheriff on their phones.
In April, a law was passed that required all smartphones sold to people under the age of 18 be equipped with software that enables their parents to monitor their activity on social media. The purpose of these apps is to prevent children from accessing adult content and to put a stop to cyberbullying
However, it was discovered that the Smart Sheriff app made the phones particularly susceptible to hackers, putting their personal information at risk.
Smart Sheriff was the most popular of these state-approved apps. More than 380,000 people used the software.
Security experts have long criticized Smart Sheriff for having serious protection flaws. Some experts have said that the lack of security on the app was leaving the door wide open for a “catastrophic mass compromise” of all Smart Sheriff users.
MOIBA later said that it fixed the security issues associated with Smart Sheriff, but it was eventually revealed that these were just mere cosmetic changes.
Privacy expert Mario Heiderich said, "If you are going to do it at all, you have to do it right, and this was not done right at all."
For now, security experts are also worried that other child monitoring apps might contain similar security failures. Privacy advocates are demanding that both the government and the companies responsible for making these apps provide more transparency to users in future situations.