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.
At the beginning of the month, we broke the news about a huge security vulnerability in several HTC phones, including the Thunderbolt, EVO 3D, EVO 4G, and possibly more. Not long after word of this issue hit the 'net, HTC issued a response acknowledging it, as well as promising to deliver a patch to correct it. Looks like they are making good on that promise now, as several HTC devices are currently receiving an OTA update to correct this vulnerability.
It's been eleven days since Android Police published this story detailing the discovery by Trevor Eckhart of some serious security issues within HTC's more recent software. Three days after that HTC responded, and now, a further week or so later, we are seeing reports of an "important security update" being pushed to HTC Sensations throughout Europe.
Screencap by FG1234 of Android-Hilfe.de
While HTC does not specify exactly what the ~9 MB update addresses, the timing seems right to relate to the preceding story.
HTC acknowledged the vulnerability in some of its devices that Android Police together with Trevor Eckhart posted Saturday night. The privilege escalation vulnerability currently allows a potentially malicious app that uses only the INTERNET permission to connect to HTC's HtcLoggers service and get access to data far exceeding its access rights. This data includes call history, the list of user accounts, including email addresses, SMS data, system logs, GPS data, and more.
I am quite speechless right now. Justin Case and I have spent all day together with Trevor Eckhart (you may remember him as TrevE of DamageControl and Virus ROMs) looking into Trev's findings deep inside HTC's latest software installed on such phones as EVO 3D, EVO 4G, Thunderbolt, and others.
These results are not pretty. In fact, they expose such ridiculously frivolous doings, which HTC has no one else to blame but itself, that the data-leaking Skype vulnerability Justin found earlier this year pales in comparison.