Feeds

Researcher outs Android exploit code

Plenty more where that came from

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

A security researcher has released proof-of-concept code that exploits a vulnerability in most versions of Google's Android operating system for smartphones.

M.J. Keith of Alert Logic said he released the attack code to expose what he characterized as inadequate patching practices for the open-source mobile platform. Rather than find the underlying bug himself, he searched through a list of documented security flaws for Apple's Safari, which relies on the same Webkit browser engine used in Android. In short order, he had an attack that exploits about two-thirds of the handsets that rely on the OS.

“They need a better patching system,” Keith told The Register. “They do  a good job of repairing future releases, but I think a better patching system needs to be set up for Android.”

The bug Keith's code exploits was fixed in Android 2.2, but according to figures supplied by Google, only 36 percent of users have the most recent version. That means the remainder are susceptible to the attack.

What's more, Keith said he had no trouble finding other documented Webkit vulnerabilities that have yet to be fixed in version 2.2.

“I found about four or five and I wasn't trying to [do]  an exhaustive search,” he said.

A Google spokesman declined to comment for this post.

To be fair, Android's design does a good job of segregating the functions of one application from those of another. That would make it hard for someone exploiting the bug Keith demonstrated to gain root privileges or access to many of the targeted handset's resources. But it still would allow an attacker to access anything the browser can read, including a phone's Secure Digital memory card.

The bigger point, Keith said, is that most users have no idea their devices are vulnerable to bugs that were patched long ago on other platforms.

“I wanted to demonstrate that nobody's being notified that their Android phone is vulnerable to this stuff,” he explained. Google “wants to pretend it's not there.” ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
BlackEnergy crimeware coursing through US control systems
US CERT says three flavours of control kit are under attack
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.