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.
Described by the Wall Street Journal as "a vulnerability that could allow malicious software to track emails and record data communications," a potential vulnerability in Samsung's Knox platform was discovered in late December by researchers at Israel's Ben-Gurion University. The researchers said the vulnerability would allow those with malicious intent to "easily intercept" secure data from Knox users. Samsung's initial response was that the problem may be less serious than researchers implied, and that it would investigate the situation thoroughly.
The second annual Mobile Pwn2Own competition, run by HP TippingPoint's Zero Day Initiative, is fast approaching. This year's event will take place at the PacSec Applied Security Conference in Tokyo from November 13-14, and over $300,000 in cash and prizes is up for grabs. The Pwn2Own contest challenges security researchers to find and exploit vulnerabilities on mobile devices and rewards them by giving them the device they were able to compromise.
When it comes right down to it, few things are much scarier than finding out somebody can track your movements, read your call log and text messages, and even record audio and take pictures of whatever the phone can get, all without your knowledge. Here's the thing - as careful, security-conscious people, many of us already install software like that for our own purposes, usually to recover a phone in the event it should fall into the hands of thieves.
A few weeks ago the "Master Key" APK verification vulnerability rocked the Android security landscape... then immediately stopped rocking it, once Google revealed that they had patched the vulnerability months ago. Still, that's little comfort to users who aren't on a brand-new 4.2 phone (or, you know, a Nexus device that gets real updates). CyanogenMod has responded by patching all of its official ROMs (twice), and now noted security firm Duo has teamed up with Northeastern University's SecLab to do the same for all Android rooted users, regardless of their device.
Over at Black Hat USA 2012, security researcher Ralf-Phillip Weinmann demonstrated a vulnerability in several Android devices that utilized A-GPS to send illicit messages to the device which could, he explained, be used to send a report of the device's location any time an A-GPS message was sent or even be used to gain complete control of the device.
In describing the attack, Weinmann pointed out that, for example, a malicious WiFi network could instruct a phone to relay all future A-GPS requests, even once the device has left the WiFi network's range.
Yesterday, a security firm called zvelo demonstrated a vulnerability within Google Wallet, cracking its PIN verification system using brute force, giving Wallet access to anyone who had the exploit. It was also revealed that the hack only worked on rooted devices, and Google swiftly reported that a fix for the bug was already being worked on.
Adding to Google Wallet's security worries, a new hack was posted online today, claiming to give access to Google Wallet (sans PIN) on non-rooted devices, requiring just a few steps to gain user information (and funds).
A serious vulnerability that affected the way some popular HTC Android phones handle 802.1x usernames, passwords, and SSIDs was disclosed publicly today by engineers Chris Hessing and Bret Jordan. The bug allowed applications with only an ACCESS_WIFI_STATE permission to read your Wi-Fi SSIDs, usernames, and, most importantly, passwords on at least the following devices:
- Desire HD (both "ace" and "spade" board revisions) - Versions FRG83D, GRI40
- Glacier - Version FRG83
- Droid Incredible - Version FRF91
- Thunderbolt 4G - Version FRG83D
- Sensation Z710e - Version GRI40
- Sensation 4G - Version GRI40
- Desire S - Version GRI40
- EVO 3D - Version GRI40
- EVO 4G - Version GRI40
Of course, if a malicious application also happens to have access to the Internet, SMS, or other means of sending out information, credentials could leak out from a vulnerable device to a remote location.
According to a group of computer scientists at North Carolina State University, a vulnerability exists within many Android devices that would allow hackers (or malicious apps) to bypass the permissions request process and tap into audio and location, wipe apps and data, or send unauthorized SMS messages, all without the user knowing.
This news may sound a bit sensational, but the researchers have created and tested a dummy app which effectively demonstrates the exploit:
Among the eight phones tested with the researchers' diagnostic app (Woodpecker), HTC's Evo 4G seemed to be the most vulnerable, able to "leak" eight different capabilities to their dummy app, which was not explicitly granted appropriate permissions by the user.