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.

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 the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
7 Tips for Infosec Pros Considering A Lateral Career Move
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/21/2020
For Mismanaged SOCs, The Price Is Not Right
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment:   It's a PEN test of our cloud security.
Current Issue
IT 2020: A Look Ahead
Are you ready for the critical changes that will occur in 2020? We've compiled editor insights from the best of our network (Dark Reading, Data Center Knowledge, InformationWeek, ITPro Today and Network Computing) to deliver to you a look at the trends, technologies, and threats that are emerging in the coming year. Download it today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-5226
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-24
Cross-site scripting in SimpleSAMLphp before version 1.18.4. The www/erroreport.php script allows error reports to be submitted and sent to the system administrator. Starting with SimpleSAMLphp 1.18.0, a new SimpleSAML\Utils\EMail class was introduced to handle sending emails, implemented as a wrapp...
CVE-2019-1517
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-24
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was in a CNA pool that was not assigned to any issues during 2019. Notes: none.
CVE-2019-1518
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-24
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was in a CNA pool that was not assigned to any issues during 2019. Notes: none.
CVE-2019-1519
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-24
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was in a CNA pool that was not assigned to any issues during 2019. Notes: none.
CVE-2019-1520
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-24
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was in a CNA pool that was not assigned to any issues during 2019. Notes: none.