Android users, if you could pause your COVID-19 panic buying for one minute to install these critical security fixes, that would be great

MediaTek chipset flaw already exploited in the wild


Google has emitted its latest monthly batch of Android security fixes, addressing a total of 70 CVE-listed vulnerabilities.

The March update includes 17 patches for flaws described as critical remote code execution holes, though only one is actually documented due to the other 16 residing in closed-source Qualcomm components.

The documented flaw, CVE-2020-0032, lies within the open-source Android media framework that can be exploited by opening a booby-trapped file that Google is disturbingly vague about. Patching the bug will also require an update to a codec used by Google Play.

Perhaps the most serious issue this month, however, was not deemed to be a critical risk, even though it affects a large number of people using MediaTek chipsets, and is already being exploited in the wild. The CVE-2020-0069 elevation-of-privilege hole can be exploited by a rogue installed app to inject a rootkit into the firmware of device, which could be a Amazon Fire tablet or gear from Motorola, Sony, Xiaomi, and others.

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The rootkit will run beneath the security protections of the Android kernel, and can spy on you and mess with applications without you realizing what's going on. According to the members of XDA Developer Forum who uncovered the flaw, it has been under active exploit for several months prior to being patched by Google.

Not discussed by Google were 40 flaws in various Qualcomm components that, as a rule, do not usually get any sort of detailed explanation when they are patched due to the code being closed-source. Of those, 16 were designated as critical, a label that is almost always reserved for remote code execution vulnerabilities.

The remaining fixes this month are for various elevation-of-privilege and information-disclosure vulnerabilities. Of those, one was found in the Android framework, two in the media framework, and six in the Android system software. Four elevation-of-privilege flaws were also located and patched in the Android kernel.

For those using Google-branded devices, the update is available for download and installation right now. Other Android owners will have to rely on their device vendor or carrier to test and release the fixes, a process that can take days or months or never.

IT admins managing corporate gadgets, meanwhile, will ideally want to get the fixes tested and deployed before next Tuesday, when Microsoft, Intel, Adobe, and SAP are all scheduled to emit their monthly security updates. ®


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