Security has been a hot topic on Android for many years, particularly as smartphones take on increasingly significant roles both at home and at work. A single device acts as your main form of communication, contains personal photos and confidential documents, and may even have access to your finances. Google and other companies have made significant investments in time and money to ensure these devices are very hard to break into. However, a vulnerability was recently discovered in some phones that compromises important security measures and opens devices up to various types of attacks. The worst part is that it was created intentionally by a manufacturing partner contracted to build the phones, and the OEMs that designed the phone had no idea.
Google started taking security updates much more seriously last year after the Stage Fright vulnerability hit. Samsung followed suit, and even launched a monthly security bulletin mirroring Google's. Now, LG has a security bulletin site where it will post updates on vulnerabilities. First up, the May security bulletin, the most recent one Google has published.
A zero-day vulnerability in the Linux kernel was disclosed a few days ago, and that usually spells bad news for anything based on Linux. That includes Android, of course. When Perception Point announced the exploit (CVE-2016-0728), it claimed 66% of Android devices were affected. Google's Adrian Ludwig says the real number is much, much smaller.
In a blog post published today by the researchers at Zimperium Mobile Security, the group divulged an extremely widespread security vulnerability that can be exploited with nothing more than a targeted MMS message. The hole exists in the part of the Android operating system called Stagefright, which handles the processing of certain types of multimedia.
How it works
If targeted, the hypothetical hacker needs only to send an MMS message, which in many cases doesn't even need to be read before the attacker gains access to the victim's microphone and camera.
Ask anybody that spends time in the security circles and they'll tell you that every large software project is bound to have a few long-standing vulnerabilities in the code. Fortunately, there are usually a few people who are paid to close up those holes so you, the customer, don't find yourself the victim of nefarious evildoers someday. Like so many before it, the latest update to Android came with a boatload of changes, at least one of which fixes a potentially dangerous vulnerability that can be used for numerous attacks, including a way to acquire root.
A very serious security hole has been discovered in Firefox for Android that allows a website to force the browser to download and run potentially damaging files, usually without the user's knowledge or interaction. The vulnerability was first described and demonstrated publicly on September 9th as part of a posting meant to advertise the attack as being for sale. The method for exploiting the weakness simply requires a webserver to instruct Firefox for Android to initiate a download, after which the downloaded file is automatically opened or executed (depending on the file type).
Here's a demonstration using an apk crafted to look like an update to Firefox:
While the demo video above uses an apk and relies on a user being tricked into installing it, the potential vectors of attack aren't restricted simply to apks and can possibly leverage other weaknesses on a device.
Scary tales about Android malware have been told since before people started guessing what dessert name would start with the letter 'D' (it's "Donut," in case anybody has forgotten.) Most of those claims came and went, amounting to little more than ghost stories. Unfortunately, there are a few real ghouls and goblins for which we should be afraid. Back in February, one such monster was discovered lurking about that allowed modified APKs to be installed on your device while successfully side-stepping the cryptographic signature used to prevent that very thing. The good news: Google and CyanogenMod have closed the loophole on their own ROMs, and OEMs are in the process of doing the same.
Skype released an update to its Android app this morning, remedying the vulnerability which exposed tons of personal info that we revealed last week. Our own Justin Case who originally found the issue has taken a look at the updated version of the app and confirmed that the exploit he developed to demonstrate the vulnerability no longer functions.
Specifically, Skype has changed the permissions of the databases (which contain the personal information) in question. This update will not remedy the vulnerability on the leaked video version of the app, so continued use is at your own risk. Skype will incorporate the fix into the video version of the app when it is officially released.
Update #1: Skype is investigating the issue, we've been told.
Update #2: Skype's official first response can be found here.
The safety of our personal information is often a concern of mine - who has my email address, my phone number, my date of birth? How can I keep my private information safe while still enjoying the internet? These concerns have prompted me to take a deeper look at Android apps more than once, and often this can yield some frightening information.
On April 11, a leaked version of Skype Video hit the web and, having a Thunderbolt, I had to try it.