Feeds

Android bug lets attackers install malware without warning

Google patch cycle puts users at risk

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

It's been more than a month since researchers reported two serious security vulnerabilities in Android, but so far there's no indication when they will be purged from the Google-spawned operating system that's the world's most popular smartphone platform.

The first flaw allows apps to be installed without prompting users for permission. The permission-escalation vulnerability permits attackers to surreptitiously install malware in much the way a proof-of-concept exploit researcher Jon Oberheide published last year did. In that case, an app he planted in the Android Market and disguised as an expansion pack for the Angry Birds game secretly installed three additional apps that without warning monitored a phone's contacts, location information and text messages so data could transmitted to a remote server.

“The Android Market ecosystem continues to be a ripe area for bugs,” Oberheide wrote in an email. “There are some complex interactions between the device and Google's Market servers which has only been made more complex and dangerous by the Android Web Market.”

The second bug resides in the Linux kernel where Android originates and makes it possible for installed apps with limited privileges to gain full control over the device. The vulnerability is contained in code device manufacturer have put into some of Android's most popular handsets, including the Nexus S. The bug undermines the security model Google developers created to contain the damage any one application can do to the overall phone.

Oberheide and fellow researcher Zach Lanier plan to speak more about the vulnerabilities at a two-day training course at the SOURCE conference in Barcelona in November. In the meantime, they put together a brief video showing their exploits in action.

A Google spokesman declined to comment for this post.

One of the hopes for Android a few years back was that it would be a viable alternative to Apple's iOS, both in terms of features and security. With the passage of time, the error of that view is becoming harder to ignore. By our count, Google developers have updated Android just 16 times since the OS debuted in September 2008. The number of iOS updates over the same period is 29.

It's a far cry from the approach Google takes with its Chrome browser, which is updated frequently, and has been known to release fixes for the Flash Player before they're even released by Adobe.

Even more telling, when a new version of iOS is released, it's available almost immediately to any iPhone user with the hardware to support the upgrade. Android users, by contrast, often wait years for their phone carriers to supply updates that fix code execution vulnerabilities and other serious flaws.

Owners of the Motorola Droid, for instance, are stuck running Android 2.2.2 even though that version was released in May 2010 and contains a variety of known bugs that allow attackers to steal confidential data and remotely execute code on handsets the run the outdated version.

Oberheide has more here. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.