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

7/28/2016
06:40 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google Adds New Kernel-Level Protections For Android

Measures include kernel memory controls and features to reduce attack surface.

Google yesterday rolled out new security measures for protecting Android’s Linux kernel against malicious attacks and other threats.

One set of measures is designed to provide memory level protections while the other is designed to reduce the overall attack surface of Android’s Linux kernel.

Jeff Vander Stoep, a member of the Android Security team, said the new memory protections are focused on ensuring that the integrity of the Linux kernel is maintained even if there are vulnerabilities in it.

“One of the major security features provided by the kernel is memory protection for userspace processes in the form of address space separation,” Stoep wrote on Google’s Security Blog.

User space is the area in an operating system kernel where applications execute. User-space processes are segmented and have only restricted access to memory so as to minimize the potential for applications to interfere with each other and cause problems like crashing a system.

“Unlike userspace processes, the kernel’s various tasks live within one address space,” Stoep said. As a result, a vulnerability anywhere in the kernel has the potential to impact other, unrelated portions of the system’s memory, he said.

Google’s new memory protection measures are designed to mitigate this threat. They include a new kernel memory segmentation feature with access restrictions for each segment that is similar to those found in the user space area. Another new feature restricts the kernel space from directly accessing memory in the user space. “This can make a number of attacks more difficult because attackers have significantly less control over kernel memory that is executable,” Stoep wrote.

Google’s new measures for reducing the kernel’s overall attack surface include removing some code and removing access to certain entry points to the kernel.

Nougat Nixes 'Perf' Access

Starting with Android Nougat--the next version of the operating system--Google will block access by default to a kernel feature called "perf" that lets developers perform performance measurement and certain other tasks at the kernel level. While perf serves a valuable purpose for developers, it adds “unnecessary attack surface” for most Android users, Stoep said. Developers who need access to the functionality would be able have it by enabling certain settings, said.

Starting with Android Nougat, Google will also restrict the number of so-called input/output control commands that are available to applications to minimize the kernel’s attack surface. Most of the vulnerabilities that have been reported in Android’s Linux kernel have been in drivers that are accessible via input/output control commands, according to Stoep.

The new measures add to a slew of ongoing projects that Google currently has underway to protect the Linux kernel, which Android relies on for tasks like enforcing mandatory access control over processes, automatic policy creation, and limiting the actions that privileged processes can take.

Examples of some of the other projects include the Kernel Self Protection Project and two separate projects for helping fuzzers more easily identity the root cause of kernel level crashes.

With Android devices increasingly being used in enterprise settings, Google has a lot at stake boosting the security of the operating system. A report by Hewlett-Packard Enterprise earlier this year identified Android as the second most heavily targeted operating system last year after Windows and also the platform with the second most number of vulnerabilities in it after Windows.

Related stories:

  

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
RyanSepe
50%
50%
RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2016 | 9:53:19 PM
Step in the right direction
This is definitely a step in the right direction. Will there be anyway to revert from these kernel level protections, and will they be set by default?
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/14/2020
Lock-Pickers Face an Uncertain Future Online
Seth Rosenblatt, Contributing Writer,  8/10/2020
Hacking It as a CISO: Advice for Security Leadership
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  8/10/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
7 New Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities That Could Put Your Enterprise at Risk
In this Dark Reading Tech Digest, we look at the ways security researchers and ethical hackers find critical vulnerabilities and offer insights into how you can fix them before attackers can exploit them.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-17475
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
Lack of authentication in the network relays used in MEGVII Koala 2.9.1-c3s allows attackers to grant physical access to anyone by sending packet data to UDP port 5000.
CVE-2020-0255
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: CVE-2020-10751. Reason: This candidate is a duplicate of CVE-2020-10751. Notes: All CVE users should reference CVE-2020-10751 instead of this candidate. All references and descriptions in this candidate have been removed to prevent accidenta...
CVE-2020-14353
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: CVE-2017-18270. Reason: This candidate is a duplicate of CVE-2017-18270. Notes: All CVE users should reference CVE-2017-18270 instead of this candidate. All references and descriptions in this candidate have been removed to prevent accidenta...
CVE-2020-17464
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was withdrawn by its CNA. Further investigation showed that it was not a security issue. Notes: none.
CVE-2020-17473
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
Lack of mutual authentication in ZKTeco FaceDepot 7B 1.0.213 and ZKBiosecurity Server 1.0.0_20190723 allows an attacker to obtain a long-lasting token by impersonating the server.