Researcher outs Android exploit code

Plenty more where that came from


A security researcher has released proof-of-concept code that exploits a vulnerability in most versions of Google's Android operating system for smartphones.

M.J. Keith of Alert Logic said he released the attack code to expose what he characterized as inadequate patching practices for the open-source mobile platform. Rather than find the underlying bug himself, he searched through a list of documented security flaws for Apple's Safari, which relies on the same Webkit browser engine used in Android. In short order, he had an attack that exploits about two-thirds of the handsets that rely on the OS.

“They need a better patching system,” Keith told The Register. “They do  a good job of repairing future releases, but I think a better patching system needs to be set up for Android.”

The bug Keith's code exploits was fixed in Android 2.2, but according to figures supplied by Google, only 36 percent of users have the most recent version. That means the remainder are susceptible to the attack.

What's more, Keith said he had no trouble finding other documented Webkit vulnerabilities that have yet to be fixed in version 2.2.

“I found about four or five and I wasn't trying to [do]  an exhaustive search,” he said.

A Google spokesman declined to comment for this post.

To be fair, Android's design does a good job of segregating the functions of one application from those of another. That would make it hard for someone exploiting the bug Keith demonstrated to gain root privileges or access to many of the targeted handset's resources. But it still would allow an attacker to access anything the browser can read, including a phone's Secure Digital memory card.

The bigger point, Keith said, is that most users have no idea their devices are vulnerable to bugs that were patched long ago on other platforms.

“I wanted to demonstrate that nobody's being notified that their Android phone is vulnerable to this stuff,” he explained. Google “wants to pretend it's not there.” ®


Other stories you might like

  • Minimal, systemd-free Alpine Linux releases version 3.16
    A widespread distro that many of its users don't even know they have

    Version 3.16.0 of Alpine Linux is out – one of the most significant of the many lightweight distros.

    Version 3.16.0 is worth a look, especially if you want to broaden your skills.

    Alpine is interesting because it's not just another me-too distro. It bucks a lot of the trends in modern Linux, and while it's not the easiest to set up, it's a great deal easier to get it working than it was a few releases ago.

    Continue reading
  • Verizon: Ransomware sees biggest jump in five years
    We're only here for DBIRs

    The cybersecurity landscape continues to expand and evolve rapidly, fueled in large part by the cat-and-mouse game between miscreants trying to get into corporate IT environments and those hired by enterprises and security vendors to keep them out.

    Despite all that, Verizon's annual security breach report is again showing that there are constants in the field, including that ransomware continues to be a fast-growing threat and that the "human element" still plays a central role in most security breaches, whether it's through social engineering, bad decisions, or similar.

    According to the US carrier's 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) released this week [PDF], ransomware accounted for 25 percent of the observed security incidents that occurred between November 1, 2020, and October 31, 2021, and was present in 70 percent of all malware infections. Ransomware outbreaks increased 13 percent year-over-year, a larger increase than the previous five years combined.

    Continue reading
  • Slack-for-engineers Mattermost on open source and data sovereignty
    Control and access are becoming a hot button for orgs

    Interview "It's our data, it's our intellectual property. Being able to migrate it out those systems is near impossible... It was a real frustration for us."

    These were the words of communication and collaboration platform Mattermost's founder and CTO, Corey Hulen, speaking to The Register about open source, sovereignty and audio bridges.

    "Some of the history of Mattermost is exactly that problem," says Hulen of the issue of closed source software. "We were using proprietary tools – we were not a collaboration platform before, we were a games company before – [and] we were extremely frustrated because we couldn't get our intellectual property out of those systems..."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022