Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Mobile

5/29/2020
02:20 PM
100%
0%

Abandoned Apps May Pose Security Risk to Mobile Devices

Mobile providers don't often update users when applications are not supported by developers, security firm says.

Software libraries that are no longer being actively developed are a huge problem for programmers and a source of vulnerabilities, but are such "abandoned" codebases also an issue for users?

In a report published today, mobile security firm Wandera argued that many mobile users have applications installed on their smartphones and tablets that are no longer in active development nor offered on major app stores. The company discovered a "significant number" of such applications on employee's devices during its regular scanning for security threats, says Michael Covington, vice president at the firm. 

These applications pose security risks because any vulnerability found in the code will never be patched, he says. 

"These abandoned applications are on worker devices: they are outdated, and they are not maintained," Covington says. "When the developer stops updating, then vulnerabilities go unpatched, and that is a security issue."

Productivity applications are the most common as measured by the number of devices that still have an abandoned app installed, according to the Wandera report. The original Samsung Keyboard software, which came installed by default on some of the manufacturer's devices, is the top application found on smartphones, with 40 times more installs than the next most common, the Flashlight app. 

Moreover, the Samsung Keyboard application has a known vulnerability, the firm stated in the analysis.  

"The Samsung [Keyboard] app is one where we are aware of published vulnerabilities," Covington says. "With these apps residing on user phones, we restrict ourselves to looking at certain bits of metadata, so we can't always tell much about the version that is installed."

The Flashlight app is present on nearly 1.2% of all devices managed by Wandera's software and poses a risk since the application is no longer under development. The statistic suggests that the Samsung Keyboard is present on nearly half of all devices, Covington confirmed, noting "upon investigation, it appears that the impact is so high because of several very large accounts that have Android devices."

Abandoned applications and codebases are a common problem in the industry. Developers, for example, often don't pay attention to whether the open source components they include in applications are under development. The result: 91% of applications include an open source component that is considered abandoned — the code has either not been developed in the past two years, or is more than four years out of date.

"All software ages. As it ages, it loses support," Synopsys stated in its 2020 Open Source Security and Risk Analysis report. "With open source, the number of developers working to ensure updates — including feature improvements, as well as security and stability updates — decreases over time." 

Apple has taken steps to keep code current on its Mac platform. The company has been warning for over a year when applications are not compatible with the latest version of its operating system. Notices, such as "The developer of this app needs to update it to work with this version of macOS," are common following an operating system update.

However, mobile devices do not have the same feature, even though they do a better job at downloading the most recent version of an application, Covington says.

"Apple... ran a pretty aggressive campaign, [but] they don't want users to feel that there has been something removed from their device," he says. "We do wish that Apple and Google would do more here to make sure that devices are checked to see if they are up to the latest version."

The companies could, for example, alert users on a regular basis to applications that are no longer available on the app store, Covington says. 

Apple does allow users to set the device to "Offload Unused Apps" in the settings, which can help reduce the danger of abandoned applications. 

For now, users should occasionally check their mobile devices for old apps they no longer use and remove them, Covington says.

"This is further evidence that people just don't tidy up their app downloads," he says. "With the average mobile devices having approximately 200 apps installed, it's no surprise how something like this can get lost in the noise and stay installed long after its utility has passed."

Related Content

 
Learn from industry experts in a setting that is conducive to interaction and conversation about how to prepare for that "really  bad day" in cybersecurity. Click for more information and to register
Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-20001
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-04
An issue was discovered in RICOH Streamline NX Client Tool and RICOH Streamline NX PC Client that allows attackers to escalate local privileges.
CVE-2020-15467
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-04
The administrative interface of Cohesive Networks vns3:vpn appliances before version 4.11.1 is vulnerable to authenticated remote code execution leading to server compromise.
CVE-2020-5615
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-04
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in [Calendar01] free edition ver1.0.0 and [Calendar02] free edition ver1.0.0 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators via unspecified vectors.
CVE-2020-5616
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-04
[Calendar01], [Calendar02], [PKOBO-News01], [PKOBO-vote01], [Telop01], [Gallery01], [CalendarForm01], and [Link01] [Calendar01] free edition ver1.0.0, [Calendar02] free edition ver1.0.0, [PKOBO-News01] free edition ver1.0.3 and earlier, [PKOBO-vote01] free edition ver1.0.1 and earlier, [Telop01] fre...
CVE-2020-5617
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-04
Privilege escalation vulnerability in SKYSEA Client View Ver.12.200.12n to 15.210.05f allows an attacker to obtain unauthorized privileges and modify/obtain sensitive information or perform unintended operations via unspecified vectors.