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

11/30/2011
10:14 AM
Dark Reading
Dark Reading
Products and Releases
50%
50%

Researchers Find Some Smartphone Models More Vulnerable To Attack

Devices specifically designed to support the Android mobile platform have incorporated additional features that can be used by hackers

New research from North Carolina State University shows that some smartphones specifically designed to support the Android mobile platform have incorporated additional features that can be used by hackers to bypass Android’s security features, making them more vulnerable to attack. Android has the largest share of the smartphone market in the U.S.

“Some of these pre-loaded applications, or features, are designed to make the smartphones more user-friendly, such as features that notify you of missed calls or text messages,” says Dr. Xuxian Jiang, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research. “The problem is that these pre-loaded apps are built on top of the existing Android architecture in such a way as to create potential ‘backdoors’ that can be used to give third-parties direct access to personal information or other phone features.”

In essence, these pre-loaded apps can be easily tricked by hackers. For example, these “backdoors” can be used to record your phone calls, send text messages to premium numbers that will charge your account or even completely wipe out all of your settings.

The researchers have tested eight different smartphone models, including two “reference implementations” that were loaded only with Google’s baseline Android software. “Google’s reference implementations and the Motorola Droid were basically clean,” Jiang says. “No real problems there.”

However, five other models did not fare as well. HTC’s Legend, EVO 4G and Wildfire S, Motorola’s Droid X and Samsung’s Epic 4G all had significant vulnerabilities – with the EVO 4G displaying the most vulnerabilities. The full paper, with technical details, is available here.

The researchers notified manufacturers of the vulnerabilities as soon as they were discovered, earlier this year.

“If you have one of these phones, your best bet to protect yourself moving forward is to make sure you accept security updates from your vendor,” Jiang says. “And avoid installing any apps that you don’t trust completely.”

Researchers now plan to test these vulnerabilities in other smartphone models and determine whether third-party firmware has similar vulnerabilities.

The paper, “Systematic Detection of Capability Leaks in Stock Android Smartphones,” will be presented Feb. 7, 2012, at the 19th Network and Distributed System Security Symposium in San Diego, Calif. The paper was co-authored by Jiang and NC State Ph.D. students Michael Grace, Yajin Zhou and Zhi Wang. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Army Research Office. A video demonstrating how the vulnerabilities work is available here.

NC State’s Department of Computer Science is part of the university’s College of Engineering.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Commentary
How SolarWinds Busted Up Our Assumptions About Code Signing
Dr. Jethro Beekman, Technical Director,  3/3/2021
News
'ObliqueRAT' Now Hides Behind Images on Compromised Websites
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  3/2/2021
News
Attackers Turn Struggling Software Projects Into Trojan Horses
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  2/26/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: George has not accepted that the technology age has come to an end.
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-27581
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-05
The Blog module in Kentico CMS 5.5 R2 build 5.5.3996 allows SQL injection via the tagname parameter.
CVE-2021-28042
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-05
Deutsche Post Mailoptimizer 4.3 before 2020-11-09 allows Directory Traversal via a crafted ZIP archive to the Upload feature or the MO Connect component. This can lead to remote code execution.
CVE-2021-28041
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-05
ssh-agent in OpenSSH before 8.5 has a double free that may be relevant in a few less-common scenarios, such as unconstrained agent-socket access on a legacy operating system, or the forwarding of an agent to an attacker-controlled host.
CVE-2021-3377
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-05
The npm package ansi_up converts ANSI escape codes into HTML. In ansi_up v4, ANSI escape codes can be used to create HTML hyperlinks. Due to insufficient URL sanitization, this feature is affected by a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability. This issue is fixed in v5.0.0.
CVE-2021-3420
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-05
A flaw was found in newlib in versions prior to 4.0.0. Improper overflow validation in the memory allocation functions mEMALIGn, pvALLOc, nano_memalign, nano_valloc, nano_pvalloc could case an integer overflow, leading to an allocation of a small buffer and then to a heap-based buffer overflow.