Talk about autocorrect fails: most of them are meant to be funny and awkward, but perhaps that’s not the case with the recent SwiftKey glitch. Earlier this week, some SwiftKey users started reporting that their keyboard was suggesting random foreign words and even unfamiliar email addresses. Awkward indeed. In response to the leak SwiftKey has suspended cloud syncing temporarily.
Last weekend, a Reddit user posted a series of screenshots showing his SwiftKey keyboard doing something odd: despite being set to English, the keyboard was suggesting random German word predictions as well as a completely unfamiliar email address. Judging by the comments on this thread, this Reddit user wasn’t the only one plagued by the glitch.
With personal words and phrases, email addresses, and phone numbers being synced to a stranger’s phone half-way across the world, this seemingly harmless bug potentially meant a huge security issue.
SwiftKey responded to the reports in a short blog post, acknowledging the problems and explaining that only a small fraction of users are affected by the glitch. In the meantime, however, the Microsoft-owned company is temporarily suspending cloud syncing and will be updating its system to remove email predictions.
The company claims that the error is simply due to a bug in the keyboard’s synchronization program, which “did not pose a security issue for our customers.” Yet when personal information such as contact details are being leaked, it’s hard not to see it was a security issue, especially when SwiftKey is used by both Android and iOS users.
While this did not pose a security issue for our customers, we have turned off the cloud sync service and have updated our applications to remove email address predictions.
SwiftKey’s leak isn’t anything new in the virtual keyboard world: last year, there was a huge kerfuffle over Samsung’s keyboard and its security (or the lack thereof). It was estimated that over 600 million devices were affected by the security flaw in Samsung’s keyboard. As cloud technology becomes more integrated into our lives, the question of security must also be answered.
With major companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple already offering cloud-based services – and with Samsung’s own cloud service allegedly launching with the Galaxy Note7 – it’d be interesting to see how the discourse on security develops as well.
Were you affected by the SwiftKey glitch? Do you see it as a harmless glitch or a security issue? Let us know in the comments below!