Blackphone rooted at BlackHat

Details awaited on privilege escalation bug


A security researcher at BlackHat has sparked a “did-he-didn't-he” Tweet-storm over the extent of an alleged “hack” of the “secure by design” Blackphone.

The Twitter argument continues, with @TeamAndIRC first announcing that it only took five minutes to root the Blackphone* (see Bootnote); then backtracking on one claim because it happened on an unpatched version of Android, and noting that the second attack required user interaction.

The three items the account identifies are described as follows: (a) “USB debugging/dev menu removed, open via targeted intent”; (b) “remotewipe app runs as system, and is debuggable, attach debugger get free system shell”, and (c) “system user to root, many available”.

This post by CSO Dan Ford at Medium answers some of @TeamAndIRC's claims.

Ford doesn't consider the debugging attack to be a vulnerability because the Android Debugging Bridge is part of Android: “We turned ADB off because it causes a software bug and potentially impacts the user experience, a patch is forthcoming.”

“I would like to thank him for not blowing the issue out of proportion and going back to the twittersphere for a little more transparency by explaining that direct user interaction is required and that we had already patched one of the vulnerabilities through the OTA update,” Ford continues.

That seems to leave the ability for a system users to get through to root: the details of the attack haven't been discussed in public, but Ford promises a patch as soon as possible once Blackphone knows what's going on.

A sidelight to the to-ing and fro-ing between @TeamAndIRC was some ill-advised crowing from the BlackBerry community over the attack, to which @TeamAndIRC responded:

®

Bootnote: @TeamAndIRC has gotten in touch with the author to point out that I misinterpreted one of his Tweets: he discovered the vulnerability in five minutes, but said it took longer than that to perform the exploit.

@TeamAndIRC added that the exploit is non-trivial: "the hack would require ignoring all of their recommendations, not updating your device, giving your phone and pin to attacker".

He also asked us to reconsider whether his “Lame for me” Tweet should be considered “backtracking”. Rather than run the story through endless revisions, here is the context that @TeamAndIRC would like considered:

The phone he used didn't have the most current firmware out-of-the-box, and a hacker conference with no safe Internet isn't the place to run updates. “I was initially unaware of the update, [Blackphone] informed me when I privately disclosed to them”. ®®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • CISA and friends raise alarm on critical flaws in industrial equipment, infrastructure
    Nearly 60 holes found affecting 'more than 30,000' machines worldwide

    Updated Fifty-six vulnerabilities – some deemed critical – have been found in industrial operational technology (OT) systems from ten global manufacturers including Honeywell, Ericsson, Motorola, and Siemens, putting more than 30,000 devices worldwide at risk, according to private security researchers. 

    Some of these vulnerabilities received CVSS severity scores as high as 9.8 out of 10. That is particularly bad, considering these devices are used in critical infrastructure across the oil and gas, chemical, nuclear, power generation and distribution, manufacturing, water treatment and distribution, mining and building and automation industries. 

    The most serious security flaws include remote code execution (RCE) and firmware vulnerabilities. If exploited, these holes could potentially allow miscreants to shut down electrical and water systems, disrupt the food supply, change the ratio of ingredients to result in toxic mixtures, and … OK, you get the idea.

    Continue reading
  • 1Password's Insights tool to help admins monitor users' security practices
    Find the clown who chose 'password' as a password and make things right

    1Password, the Toronto-based maker of the identically named password manager, is adding a security analysis and advice tool called Insights from 1Password to its business-oriented product.

    Available to 1Password Business customers, Insights takes the form of a menu addition to the right-hand column of the application window. Clicking on the "Insights" option presents a dashboard for checking on data breaches, password health, and team usage of 1Password throughout an organization.

    "We designed Insights from 1Password to give IT and security admins broader visibility into potential security risks so businesses improve their understanding of the threats posed by employee behavior, and have clear steps to mitigate those issues," said Jeff Shiner, CEO of 1Password, in a statement.

    Continue reading
  • Inside the RSAC expo: Buzzword bingo and the bear in the room
    We mingle with the vendors so you don't have to

    RSA Conference Your humble vulture never liked conference expos – even before finding myself on the show floor during a global pandemic. Expo halls are a necessary evil that are predominatly visited to find gifts to bring home to the kids. 

    Do organizations really choose security vendors based on a booth? The whole expo hall idea seems like an outdated business model – for the vendors, anyway. Although the same argument could be made for conferences in general.

    For the most part, all of the executives and security researchers set up shop offsite – either in swanky hotels and shared office space (for the big-wigs) or at charming outdoor chess tables in Yerba Buena Gardens. Many of them said they avoided the expo altogether.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022