SAT Scores and Medication
Reminders"> Messages from both the Princeton Review Service and Pill Phone were accidentally sent to Bubrouskis phone because of a flaw in a sharing feature in the service that allows test results completed on the phone to automatically be forwarded in SMS or e-mail format to a third party such as a parent or tutor, he said. Messages without a "To" address were not delivered by the service. However, because of a programming flaw in the client server software, messages with an invalid address, such as a blank space, were translated as "Null," and wound up on Bubrouskis phone, Jensen said.Vocel was informed of the problem by Bubrouski on Feb. 8 and had the problem fixed by Feb. 10. Verizon Wireless sues another spammer. Click here to read more. While the Princeton Review messages that Bubrouski received were from a service that is in production, the Pill Phone messages were merely test data generated by Vocel engineers, not actual reminders, he said. For example, text messages from firstname.lastname@example.org told Bubrouski that "A student at 4105704297 has just completed Princeton Review Word Set 1 with a score of 71%." A message from email@example.com informed him that "A user at 7325894169 has not responded to his/her 01:45 PM dose of Pronestyl-SR," according to examples of data provided to eWEEK. Vocel does not channel sensitive data from third-party servers. All the data that is circulated, such as test scores and medication informationis entered by the cell phone user, or generated on his or her phone, Jensen said. Still, Vocel is taking the incident seriously. "This was a wake-up call for us from the standpoint of ensuring that back-end systems are doing verification and checking," he said. Jensen was loath to criticize Verizon, which provides SMTP gateways that route data sent from cell phone users and providers like Vocel to its customers. However, others said that Bubrouskis experience may be a sign of larger problems with the way that providers like Verizon are running their text messaging networks. SMS users, like e-mail users, rely on the fact that carriers like Verizon wont accidentally deliver improperly formatted messages, such as those with no addressee, to an unrelated address, said John Pescatore, a vice president at Gartner. "Theres no way that this should be happening. No e-mail system would ever do that," he said. Verizon should be rejecting messages with improperly formatted addressee information, not forwarding it to an account, he said. Bubrouski agrees. "Id have to say Verizon is at fault. Sure, service providers make mistakes, but Verizon shouldnt be accepting messages from no one to no one," he said. Verizon declined to comment in detail on Bubrouskis case. However, Verizon wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson thanked eWEEK for bringing the Null account issue to the companys attention, and said Verizon is looking into the issue. The problems that Bubrouski experienced may be particular to Verizons network. However, security is a larger problem in text messaging and e-mail, where trust is assumed between senders and receivers of message data, said Brian Berger, a vice president of marketing at Wave Systems Inc. and marketing chair at the TCG (Trusted Computer Group). TCG is developing specifications for hardware building blocks, including the TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip that can secure transactions from mobile devices. Companies like Nokia, Motorola, ARM, Vodaphone, Wave Systems, as well as Intel and IBM are participating in the process, and specifications are expected this Summer, Berger said. Click here to read how Yahoo is expanding mobile search with text messaging. As mobile devices become more powerful and are used to log into secure networks, and conduct high value transactions, users will need to have a way to authenticate themselves, manage passwords and prove their identity using mobile phones, he said. While Verizon works on the problem, Bubrouski said hes grown accustomed to his plight as a shepherd for lost text messages. "Ive received thousands of text messages over the past five years," he wrote. "Probably only about 200 or so were actually meant for or even sent to me directly." Getting rid of his vText account would stop the stream of unwanted SMS message problem, but Bubrouski said he enjoys reading the messages he receives, and blocks companies and individuals when the volume of SMS theyre sending him gets too high. "Ive kind of gotten used to it," he wrote. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.
"The fault was entirely ours," he said.