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

2/16/2017
08:40 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

New Attack Threatens Android For Work Security

The enterprise privacy app, designed to separate personal and business information, is open to attacks putting corporate data at risk.

A newly discovered "app-in-the-middle" attack threatens the security of business data stored in Android for Work, which was designed to keep business and personal accounts separate.

The premise behind Android for Work, introduced in version 5.0 Lollipop, was to support the growth in bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. Users create two separate personas: a business persona with enterprise-level controls, and an open, unmanaged personal profile.

Enterprise apps, emails, and documents could be managed and secured through the business persona so admins wouldn't be able to monitor their personal apps. IT departments could manage their environments for work activities without restricting personal apps.

The platform relied on Android's user separation functionality, which allows different users to employ the same device. Work profiles are considered separate users, but they share icon badges and notifications with the personal profile.

It was a seemingly secure framework. Android for Work was created as an additional secure container so apps in the device's personal profile should not have any access to the activity or content in the business persona.

Unfortunately, this isn't the case. At this year's RSAC, Skycure will demonstrate how a vulnerability in the separation logic of Android for Work can let malicious personal apps to view, steal, and manipulate apps and content that should be secured in the business profile.

"We will show how a malicious app installed on the personal side, which should only be able to access personal apps, can easily watch everything a person does on their business persona and perform acts on their behalf," explains CTO and co-founder Yair Amit.

Skycure has been working with Google as part of a "coordinated disclosure" process through which users are informed of the flaw, which was discovered at the end of 2016 as Skycure was researching the security of mobile systems.

"It is imperative to share with the public the exposure," Amit continues. "Android for Work is a very good system with the premise of good security, but it puts the organization at stake when they have a lot of control over what goes on in the business persona, but no control over what goes on in the personal side. The damage is actually pretty high."

This technique is the "app-in-the-middle attack," which resides in the personal profile but can steal corporate data as users interact with it. Because IT admins can't monitor the personal profile from the work profile, they don’t know whether sensitive data has been exposed.

These attacks start by getting the victim to install a malicious personal app. The app uses system-level permissions built into Android -- notifications permissions, accessibility permissions -- to gain access to the business persona.

Once they have access to business apps, hackers can read emails, recover passwords to other systems, archive email, and perform a range of sensitive business activity. Victims have no clue they are under attack, says Amit. Attackers can gain access to more systems using this method.

One "app in the middle" attack is the Notification Access attack. Android for Work notifications are presented alongside personal notifications in the same interface. Because notifications access is a device-level permission, a malicious app in the personal profile can have permission to view and act on all notifications, including business alerts, because of the way it's designed.

There's also the Accessibility Permissions attack, which leverages Android's Accessibility Service to improve user interface interaction with features like audible narration of text for the visually impaired. The Accessibility Service has access to all device content and controls, so a personal app that acquires Accessibility permissions can also access apps in the business side.

This vulnerability poses a risk to businesses, especially as Google pushes Android as a business tool. The more organizations that use it, the bigger risk it is. "Everything you do in your persona is compromised in these attacks," Amit emphasizes.

There are steps businesses can take to mitigate the risk, he continues. In addition to employing a mobile defense system, Amit recommends educating employees of the danger. "Awareness is valuable," he notes, and organizations should be aware of the technical ramifications of these attacks.

*Google recently switched the branding of Android for Work and now calls it "work features in Android"

Related Content:

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
HackerOne Drops Mobile Voting App Vendor Voatz
Dark Reading Staff 3/30/2020
Limited-Time Free Offers to Secure the Enterprise Amid COVID-19
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  3/31/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
6 Emerging Cyber Threats That Enterprises Face in 2020
This Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at six emerging cyber threats that enterprises could face in 2020. Download your copy today!
Flash Poll
State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
Data breaches and regulations have forced organizations to pay closer attention to the security incident response function. However, security leaders may be overestimating their ability to detect and respond to security incidents. Read this report to find out more.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-11565
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-06
An issue was discovered in the Linux kernel through 5.6.2. mpol_parse_str in mm/mempolicy.c has a stack-based out-of-bounds write because an empty nodelist is mishandled during mount option parsing, aka CID-aa9f7d5172fa.
CVE-2020-11558
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-05
An issue was discovered in libgpac.a in GPAC 0.8.0, as demonstrated by MP4Box. audio_sample_entry_Read in isomedia/box_code_base.c does not properly decide when to make gf_isom_box_del calls. This leads to various use-after-free outcomes involving mdia_Read, gf_isom_delete_movie, and gf_isom_parse_m...
CVE-2020-11547
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-05
PRTG Network Monitor before 20.1.57.1745 allows remote unauthenticated attackers to obtain information about probes running or the server itself (CPU usage, memory, Windows version, and internal statistics) via an HTTP request, as demonstrated by type=probes to login.htm or index.htm.
CVE-2020-11548
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-05
The Search Meter plugin through 2.13.2 for WordPress allows user input introduced in the search bar to be any formula. The attacker could achieve remote code execution via CSV injection if a wp-admin/index.php?page=search-meter Export is performed.
CVE-2020-11542
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-04
3xLOGIC Infinias eIDC32 2.213 devices with Web 1.107 allow Authentication Bypass via CMD.HTM?CMD= because authentication depends on the client side's interpretation of the <KEY>MYKEY</KEY> substring.