Risk
6/27/2010
03:34 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Android, iPhone, "Kill Switch" Capabilities

The recent security related events surrounding Google Android highlights why users must exercise constant vigilance in the applications they choose to install on their handsets, and raises questions about the ability for vendors to reach into your handset to remove potentially nasty software.

The recent security related events surrounding Google Android highlights why users must exercise constant vigilance in the applications they choose to install on their handsets, and raises questions about the ability for vendors to reach into your handset to remove potentially nasty software.Security researcher Jon Oberheide created a bit of a stir following his talk at the SummerCon hacker conference. In his presentation, Oberheide revealed just how straightforward it can be to "infect" smartphone users with malicious applications. Simply bait them with an enticing application, and stealthily hide any malicious intent. In this incident, Oberheide promised pictures of the upcoming Twilight film, Eclipse.

Oberheide's application was a proof-of-concept, and had no malicious intent. He was simply out to make a point about Android security. You can learn more about his research and the talk he gave at his site.

Essentially, Oberheide sheds light on a potentially serious weakness in how the apps in Android's App Market work. Those applications are free to download new code after they're installed by the user. That means that an application that starts out providing a benign function, such as collecting wallpapers, organizing photos, providing movie reviews -- anything -- could potentially become an application designed to snoop and steal data or launch denial or service attacks. These security warnings on mobile devices isn't new. Late last year we reported on botnets targeting Jailbroken iPhones in Mobile BotNets: A New Frontline. In February computer scientists from Rutgers University demonstrated how smart phones could be as susceptible to rootkit infiltration as PC and server operating systems.

Obviously, consumers will have to be careful about what applications they download, use, and trust. However, enterprises may need to go a step further and control what applications employees can install on phones that are used to connect to corporate assets. For years now it's been clear that relying on virtual-private networks alone wasn't enough to secure remote PCs accessing the enterprise network and they won't be enough to keep mobile device access secure, either.

As for the "Kill Switch" ability within iPhone and Android phones. That capability in vendors' hands is a bitter pill to swallow. No one likes the idea of a software or mobile handset provider having the ability to yank applications off of our devices. However, infected mobile devices pose a somewhat different set of challenges than PCs connecting to the Internet.

For instance, while tens of thousands of PCs infected with bots can launch a distributed denial-of-service attack that can take down a Web site, they can't threaten the availability of the Internet itself. Unfortunately, cellular networks aren't so resilient. It's much easier, relatively, to make an entire cellular network inaccessible through denial-of-service attacks. And vendor kill switch capabilities may be the only way shut those down.

Is that ideal? No. It'd be much more preferable to build more resilient wireless networks - and keep vendors from being able to reach into our handsets to uninstall whatever they wish.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2010-5110
Published: 2014-08-29
DCTStream.cc in Poppler before 0.13.3 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a crafted PDF file.

CVE-2012-1503
Published: 2014-08-29
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in Six Apart (formerly Six Apart KK) Movable Type (MT) Pro 5.13 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the comment section.

CVE-2013-5467
Published: 2014-08-29
Monitoring Agent for UNIX Logs 6.2.0 through FP03, 6.2.1 through FP04, 6.2.2 through FP09, and 6.2.3 through FP04 and Monitoring Server (ms) and Shared Libraries (ax) 6.2.0 through FP03, 6.2.1 through FP04, 6.2.2 through FP08, 6.2.3 through FP01, and 6.3.0 through FP01 in IBM Tivoli Monitoring (ITM)...

CVE-2014-0600
Published: 2014-08-29
FileUploadServlet in the Administration service in Novell GroupWise 2014 before SP1 allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files via the poLibMaintenanceFileSave parameter, aka ZDI-CAN-2287.

CVE-2014-0888
Published: 2014-08-29
IBM Worklight Foundation 5.x and 6.x before 6.2.0.0, as used in Worklight and Mobile Foundation, allows remote authenticated users to bypass the application-authenticity feature via unspecified vectors.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
This episode of Dark Reading Radio looks at infosec security from the big enterprise POV with interviews featuring Ron Plesco, Cyber Investigations, Intelligence & Analytics at KPMG; and Chris Inglis & Chris Bell of Securonix.