Android bug opens devices to outside control

Powered by SC Magazine
 

Previously unpublicised flaw in webkit.

Cybersecurity experts have uncovered a flaw in a component of the operating system of Google's widely used Android smartphone that they say hackers can exploit to gain control of the devices.

Researchers at startup cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike said they have figured out how to use that bug to launch attacks and take control of some Android devices.

CrowdStrike, which will demonstrate its findings next week at a major computer security conference in San Francisco, said an attacker sends an email or text message that appears to be from a trusted source, like the user's phone carrier.

The message urges the recipient to click on a link, which if done infects the device.

At that point, the hacker gains complete control of the phone, enabling him or her to eavesdrop on phone calls and monitor the location of the device, said Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer and co-founder of CrowdStrike.

Google spokesman Jay Nancarrow declined comment on Crowdstrike's claim.

Alperovitch said the firm conducted the research to highlight how mobile devices are increasingly vulnerable to a type of attack widely carried out against PCs. In such instances, hackers find previously unknown vulnerabilities in software, then exploit those flaws with malicious software that is delivered via tainted links or attached documents.

He said smartphone users need to prepare for this type of attack, which typically cannot be identified or thwarted by mobile device security software.

"With modifications and perhaps use of different exploits, this attack will work on every smartphone device and represents the biggest security threat on those devices," said Alperovitch, who was vice president of threat research at McAfee before he co-founded CrowdStrike.

Researchers at CrowdStrike were not the first to identify such a threat, though such warnings are less common than reports of malicious applications that make their way to online websites, such as Apple's App Store or the Android Market.

In July 2009, researchers Charlie Miller and Collin Mulliner figured out a way to attack Apple's iPhone by sending malicious code embedded in text messages that was invisible to the phone's user. Apple repaired the bug in the software a few weeks after the pair warned it of the problem.

The method devised by CrowdStrike currently works on devices running Android 2.2, also known as Froyo. That version is installed on about 28 percent of all Android devices, according to a Google survey conducted over two weeks ending February 1.

Alperovitch said he expects to have a second version of the software finished by next week that can attack phones running Android 2.3. That version, widely known as Gingerbread, is installed on another 59 percent of all Android devices, according to Google.

CrowdStrike's method of attack makes use of a previously unpublicised security flaw in a piece of software known as webkit, which is built into the Android operating system's Web browser.

Webkit is also incorporated into other software programs, including Google's Chrome browser and the Apple iOS operating system for the iPhone and iPad.

CrowdStrike said it had not attempted to create software to attack iOS devices or the Chrome browser.

Manufacturers of Android devices include HTC, LG Electronics, Motorola Mobility and Samsung Electronics.

(Reporting By Jim Finkle)


Android bug opens devices to outside control
 
 
 
Top Stories
Frugality as a service: the Amazon story
Behind the scenes, Amazon Web Services is one lean machine.
 
Negotiating with the cloud email megavendors
[Blog post] Lessons from Woolworths’ mammoth migration.
 
Qld govt to move up to 149k staff onto Office 365
Australia's largest deployment, outside of the universities.
 
 
Sign up to receive iTnews email bulletins
   FOLLOW US...

Latest VideosSee all videos »

The great data centre opportunity on Australia's doorstep
The great data centre opportunity on Australia's doorstep
Scott Noteboom, CEO of LitBit speaking at The Australian Data Centre Strategy Summit 2014 in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. http://bit.ly/1qpxVfV Scott Noteboom is a data centre engineer who led builds for Apple and Yahoo in the earliest days of the cloud, and who now eyes Asia as the next big opportunity. Read more: http://www.itnews.com.au/News/372482,how-do-we-serve-three-billion-new-internet-users.aspx#ixzz2yNLmMG5C
Interview: Karl Maftoum, CIO, ACMA
Interview: Karl Maftoum, CIO, ACMA
To COTS or not to COTS? iTnews asks Karl Maftoum, CIO of the ACMA, at the CIO Strategy Summit.
Susan Sly: What is the Role of the CIO?
Susan Sly: What is the Role of the CIO?
AEMO chief information officer Susan Sly calls for more collaboration among Australia's technology leaders at the CIO Strategy Summit.
Meet the 2014 Finance CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Finance CIO of the Year
Credit Union Australia's David Gee awarded Finance CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards.
Meet the 2014 Retail CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Retail CIO of the Year
Damon Rees named Retail CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at Woolworths.
Robyn Elliott named the 2014 Utilities CIO of the Year
Robyn Elliott named the 2014 Utilities CIO of the Year
Acting Foxtel CIO David Marks accepts an iTnews Benchmark Award on behalf of Robyn Elliott.
Meet the 2014 Industrial CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Industrial CIO of the Year
Sanjay Mehta named Industrial CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at ConocoPhillips.
Meet the 2014 Healthcare CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Healthcare CIO of the Year
Greg Wells named Healthcare CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at NSW Health.
Meet the 2014 Education CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Education CIO of the Year
William Confalonieri named Healthcare CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at Deakin University.
Meet the 2014 Government CIO of the Year
Meet the 2014 Government CIO of the Year
David Johnson named Government CIO of the Year at the iTnews Benchmark Awards for his work at the Queensland Police Service.
Q and A: Coalition Broadband Policy
Q and A: Coalition Broadband Policy
Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott discuss the Coalition's broadband policy with the press.
AFP scalps hacker 'leader' inside Australia's IT ranks.
AFP scalps hacker 'leader' inside Australia's IT ranks.
The Australian Federal Police have arrested a Sydney-based IT security professional for hacking a government website.
NBN Petition Delivered To Turnbull's Office
NBN Petition Delivered To Turnbull's Office
UTS CIO: IT teams of the future
UTS CIO: IT teams of the future
UTS CIO Chrissy Burns talks data.
New UTS Building: the IT within
New UTS Building: the IT within
The IT behind tomorrow's universities.
iTnews' NBN Panel
iTnews' NBN Panel
Is your enterprise NBN-ready?
Introducing iTnews Labs
Introducing iTnews Labs
See a timelapse of the iTnews labs being unboxed, set up and switched on! iTnews will produce independent testing of the latest enterprise software to hit the market after installing a purpose-built test lab in Sydney. Watch the installation of two DL380p servers, two HP StoreVirtual 4330 storage arrays and two HP ProCurve 2920 switches.
The True Cost of BYOD
The True Cost of BYOD
iTnews' Brett Winterford gives attendees of the first 'Touch Tomorrow' event in Brisbane a brief look at his research into enterprise mobility. What are the use cases and how can they be quantified? What price should you expect to pay for securing mobile access to corporate applications? What's coming around the corner?
Ghost clouds
Ghost clouds
ACMA chair Chris Chapman says there is uncertainty over whether certain classes of cloud service providers are caught by regulations.
Was the Snowden leak inevitable?
Was the Snowden leak inevitable?
Privacy experts David Vaile (UNSW Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre) and Craig Scroggie (CEO, NextDC) claim they were not surprised by the Snowden leaks about the NSA's PRISM program.
Latest Comments
Polls
Which bank is most likely to suffer an RBS-style meltdown?





   |   View results
ANZ
  21%
 
Bankwest
  9%
 
CommBank
  11%
 
National Australia Bank
  17%
 
Suncorp
  24%
 
Westpac
  19%
TOTAL VOTES: 1455

Vote