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Nokia admits major Series 40 security problems

Mobile remote control

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Nokia has admitted that the security flaws exposed by Adam Gowdiak of Security Explorations are genuine, and that a miscreant exploiting them could do whatever they like to a Series 40 phone just by knowing the phone number.

Gowdiak posted some details earlier this month, with claims that by exploiting the flaws he could remotely install an application onto a Series 40 handset, and then provide that application with enough security permissions to execute any command he wished. Nokia has been a week or two getting back to us, but this morning admitted that they have "been investigating the allegations made, using our normal processes and comprehensive testing... We can confirm that both claims are valid in some of our products."

We reported Gowdiak's claims earlier this month, with some incredulity. It seemed unlikely that one researcher could uncover such a litany of security flaws in such a popular platform - Series 40 has been deployed on no more than 100 million handsets - but it seems our cynicism was misplaced.

Gowdiak's Security Explorations company was selling details for €20K, claiming that this was reasonable payment for the time he spent finding the flaws - but it's hard to get payment for such work without appearing to be blackmailing the companies involved.

We don't know if Gowdiak got his €20K from Nokia, or if they managed to identify the problem from the outline he sent them without paying him. Either way, it highlights again the problem of how security researchers get paid for their time.

Nokia say they are working on a fix, and that "we do not currently believe these issues represent a significant risk to customers' devices". But if a flaw that allows an attacker to remotely install a native, unsigned application onto 100 million handsets isn't a significant risk, then we're not clear what would be. ®

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