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

8/20/2014
02:20 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

US, German Researchers Build Android Security Framework

The Android Security Modules (ASM) framework aims to streamline and spread security features, updates to Android devices.

Security researchers from the US and Germany have developed a framework for Android that would allow companies and users to more easily plug in security tools and enhancements to the mobile devices.

The researchers, from NC State and Technische Universitat Darmstadt/CASED in Germany, basically modified the core Android operating system such that developers and users could more easily add new security features to Android devices. The so-called Android Security Modules (ASM) Framework is a way to more comprehensively and easily update the oft-targeted mobile platform with new defenses from attacks and privacy threats.

Android's popularity has been its detriment when it comes to security: The pervasive and open-source OS comes in multiple flavors and iterations on various smartphone and tablet platforms, depending on the vendor, model, and wireless provider. Patching and updating firmware has been haphazard in many cases, and enterprises faced with BYOD pressures have struggled to efficiently and sufficiently lock down the devices for their employees.

But the researchers say that if Google were to implement ASM, which provides a sort of application programming interface framework, Android devices could more easily and widely get augmented with security enhancements and exploit protections.

"This enables the sorts of privacy and security enhancements for Android to actually see the light of day," says Dr. William Enck, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of "ASM:  A Programmable Interface for Extending Android Security," which he and the other authors will present on Friday at the Usenix Security Symposium in San Diego.

Enck says the framework makes Android devices more attractive for businesses. "The real power of ASM is being a generic, extensible way to enhancing security on smartphones," he says. "I think there's a strong need for this… framework as Android becomes more and more pervasive."

He and his fellow researchers on the project, Adwait Nadkarni, a PhD student at NC State and  Stephan Heuser, a Ph.D. student at TU Darmstadt/CASED; and Dr. Ahmad-Reza Sadeghi, of TU Darmstadt/CASED, have reached out to Google and Android device manufacturers about the new framework.

Google as of this posting had not yet responded to a press inquiry about the new research.

Tyler Shields of Forrester Research says the ASM framework makes sense as step toward making Android devices more secure. "It would allow others to expand on the project," Shields says.

But it's not a quick nor comprehensive fix, he warns. The Android ecosystem, from Google to the smartphone makers to the wireless carriers, would need to adopt it.  "It's super complex stuff and likely going to be quite some time before Google considers something so large. This would be a major underlying change in architecture and would be quite a big undertaking to get the food chain of vendors -- Google, hardware vendor, carrier -- to all implement and manage and use this properly."

So how would ASM work for an Android user? NC State's Enck says if an Android was outfitted with ASM and the device's OS was no longer updatable with the newest OS, a security module could be developed for this older device to mitigate a specific exploit threat, for example, depending on the vulnerability. "It really depends on the vulnerability," he says.

ASM does not cover threats to the Linux kernel, however, he says.

"My goal is to see the ASM framework adopted into the Android open source project. That way, it would [be available] to the widest number of phones. And I would hope the large smartphone vendors would be adopting it," he says.

"Android is a platform with many different customers," and the hope is to offer widespread availability of security improvements to it via ASM, he says.

[Black Hat speaker details how security researchers can expedite their work across numerous Android devices at once. Read Tapping Into A Homemade Android Army.]

The researchers are offering the ASM framework source code for free, non-commercial use. Their research paper with the full technical details is available here.

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
RyanSepe
50%
50%
RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
8/22/2014 | 8:41:45 AM
Re: what will Google do (if anything)?
I think this will be the next big game changer for Android security. As long as the ease of implementation for third-party developers allow for the continuation of strengthening the security plugins. Otherwise, this initiative will become reliant on the creator for updates. But from what I have seen with android, most of its strength is placed in open-source.

How does this differ from Samsung Knox Security? Besides the fact that the other only applies to Samsung. I believe that Knox does defend rootkit but if anyone has further expertise in the matter I am interested.
Kelly Jackson Higgins
50%
50%
Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
8/20/2014 | 4:03:18 PM
what will Google do (if anything)?
I haven't heard back from Google on this yet. Tyler's comment about just what it would take for this to take off is interesting. Anyone think this could be the game-changer for Android security? 
US Turning Up the Heat on North Korea's Cyber Threat Operations
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  9/16/2019
MITRE Releases 2019 List of Top 25 Software Weaknesses
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  9/17/2019
Preventing PTSD and Burnout for Cybersecurity Professionals
Craig Hinkley, CEO, WhiteHat Security,  9/16/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-14821
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-19
An out-of-bounds access issue was found in the Linux kernel, all versions through 5.3, in the way Linux kernel's KVM hypervisor implements the Coalesced MMIO write operation. It operates on an MMIO ring buffer 'struct kvm_coalesced_mmio' object, wherein write indices 'ring->first' and 'ring->l...
CVE-2019-15032
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-19
Pydio 6.0.8 mishandles error reporting when a directory allows unauthenticated uploads, and the remote-upload option is used with the http://localhost:22 URL. The attacker can obtain sensitive information such as the name of the user who created that directory and other internal server information.
CVE-2019-15033
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-19
Pydio 6.0.8 allows Authenticated SSRF during a Remote Link Feature download. An attacker can specify an intranet address in the file parameter to index.php, when sending a file to a remote server, as demonstrated by the file=http%3A%2F%2F192.168.1.2 substring.
CVE-2019-16412
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-19
In goform/setSysTools on Tenda N301 wireless routers, attackers can trigger a device crash via a zero wanMTU value. (Prohibition of this zero value is only enforced within the GUI.)
CVE-2019-16510
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-19
libIEC61850 through 1.3.3 has a use-after-free in MmsServer_waitReady in mms/iso_mms/server/mms_server.c, as demonstrated by server_example_goose.