Vulnerabilities / Threats

7/25/2012
08:56 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Android Takeover With The Swipe Of A Smartphone

Security researcher discovers near-field communication (NFC) is a greenfield of security risks

BLACK HAT USA -- Las Vegas, NV -- Emerging near-field communication (NFC) technology for reading tags and paying electronically for cab fare can be abused to wrest control of some Android phones, a researcher demonstrated here today.

Click here for more of Dark Reading's Black Hat articles.

Charlie Miller, who is a managing principal with Accuvant Labs, discovered several vulnerabilities in certain Android smartphones and released a homegrown fuzzer for devices enabled with NFC, an RFID-based technology that shares information between smartphones and related devices when swiped within a few centimeters of one another.

"NFC opens a new wave of server-side attacks, without user interaction," Miller said in his presentation here. The researcher discovered flaws in the Samsung Nexus 5 Galaxy Android version 2.3.3 (a.k.a. Gingerbread) and Nokia n9.1.2 Android Version 4.0.1 (a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich), which he then reported to the vendors. The Android 4.0.1 flaw was actually in the Web kit browser, and Google has since fixed it without Miller's help.

Trouble is, most Android users have not upgraded to the new version of the smartphone OS, Miller notes.

[ Renowned researcher will show just how dangerous it can be to pay cab fare with your mobile device, as he demonstrates vulnerabilities he discovered in emerging near-field communications (NFC) technology. See Apple Ban Gives Miller Time To Hack Other Things. ]

The browser is the real attack surface for NFC-enabled smartphones, says Miller, who says he moved on from the low-level bug exploration to the browser in his research when that became evident. Along with fellow Accuvant researcher Josh Drake and George Wicherski from CrowdStrike, Miller demonstrated a live exploit developed by Drake and Wicherski where Wicherski waved his Android near Drake's and took over the device. The attack exploits a bug in the Webkit browser.

"This is sort of frightening," Miller said. "I can get shell and all I did was get near the phone."

Miller also found PowerPoint and PDF bugs in the Nokia N9 1.2 Harmattan PR 1.2, and he says as far as he knows, Nokia has not yet fixed them.

NFC is not widely deployed today, but it does come enabled out of the box in Android devices. But the good news is you can always turn NFC off, says Miller, who says he disables the technology in his smartphones not because he's worried about its risks, but mainly because he doesn't have any actual use for it.

"Not everyone has NFC, so it's not really a huge risk. This is more of a cautionary tale," he says. Miller says the bugs in NFC demonstrate how adding more complexity to these devices also raises potential risks of abuse.

In his presentation, Miller noted that NFC only works when a smartphone is awake, but an attacker could "wake it up" by sending a text message, for instance.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Crowdsourced vs. Traditional Pen Testing
Alex Haynes, Chief Information Security Officer, CDL,  3/19/2019
BEC Scammer Pleads Guilty
Dark Reading Staff 3/20/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
5 Emerging Cyber Threats to Watch for in 2019
Online attackers are constantly developing new, innovative ways to break into the enterprise. This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at five emerging attack trends and exploits your security team should look out for, along with helpful recommendations on how you can prevent your organization from falling victim.
Flash Poll
The State of Cyber Security Incident Response
The State of Cyber Security Incident Response
Organizations are responding to new threats with new processes for detecting and mitigating them. Here's a look at how the discipline of incident response is evolving.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-18913
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-21
Opera before 57.0.3098.106 is vulnerable to a DLL Search Order hijacking attack where an attacker can send a ZIP archive composed of an HTML page along with a malicious DLL to the target. Once the document is opened, it may allow the attacker to take full control of the system from any location with...
CVE-2018-20031
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-21
A Denial of Service vulnerability related to preemptive item deletion in lmgrd and vendor daemon components of FlexNet Publisher version 11.16.1.0 and earlier allows a remote attacker to send a combination of messages to lmgrd or the vendor daemon, causing the heartbeat between lmgrd and the vendor ...
CVE-2018-20032
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-21
A Denial of Service vulnerability related to message decoding in lmgrd and vendor daemon components of FlexNet Publisher version 11.16.1.0 and earlier allows a remote attacker to send a combination of messages to lmgrd or the vendor daemon, causing the heartbeat between lmgrd and the vendor daemon t...
CVE-2018-20034
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-21
A Denial of Service vulnerability related to adding an item to a list in lmgrd and vendor daemon components of FlexNet Publisher version 11.16.1.0 and earlier allows a remote attacker to send a combination of messages to lmgrd or the vendor daemon, causing the heartbeat between lmgrd and the vendor ...
CVE-2019-3855
PUBLISHED: 2019-03-21
An integer overflow flaw which could lead to an out of bounds write was discovered in libssh2 before 1.8.1 in the way packets are read from the server. A remote attacker who compromises a SSH server may be able to execute code on the client system when a user connects to the server.