Feeds

HTC Android handsets spew private data to ANY app

Mystery data logger opens backdoor for slurping

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A data logger pushed out by HTC to Android handsets has opened up a vulnerability allowing any app with internet permissions to access private customer information.

The vulnerability was spotted by Trevor Eckhart, who informed HTC about it and waited five days for a response. Following that he decided to go public and gave Android Police the details along with demonstration code and a video showing how an application that is supposed to see almost nothing can now see almost everything.

So an application that is supposed to be restricted to accessing the internet - a common ability requested by freebie apps to collect advertisements - can also access the user's location and details of all their synchronised accounts, not to mention the list of running tasks, the state of Wi-Fi connections, and system logs.

The data is being collected by a system package called HtcLoggers.apk, installed by HTC onto a range of Android handsets for reasons that aren't clear. That logging package accumulates data all the time, but it also has an accessible interface that other applications can use to request specific information - it even has a "help" command for those who don't know what it is they want to know.

The information provided includes a load of system information as well as the account and location data, which is probably most sensitive, and the internet privileges requested also mean the application can send the data off to parts unknown, which is nice.

Eckhart has produced a demonstration app, and is asking those with HTC handsets to take a look and help establish how widespread HtcLoggers.apk is.

When looking closely at what HTC had installed he also stumbled across the scarily named androidvncserver.apk (VNC being a remote-control protocol), but hasn't found any way to activate it as yet so this could be a red herring.

We don't know because HTC isn't saying. The company gave us a statement saying it is aware of the accusations and is looking into them, and that it is "taking customers' security seriously". But HTC received notification a week ago, and didn't respond to that information until it was made public.

The breach is a serious one, particularly given that free apps so often ask for internet privileges to collect embedded adverts. Such an app could now harvest data for spear phishing or similar, and given the publicly available demonstration code it would be naive to think someone isn't working on that right now.

So if you've an HTC Android handset then it's probably worth laying off the free downloads, at least until HTC has something more useful to tell us. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
UK smart meters arrive in 2020. Hackers have ALREADY found a flaw
Energy summit bods warned of free energy bonanza
DRUPAL-OPCALYPSE! Devs say best assume your CMS is owned
SQLi hole was hit hard, fast, and before most admins knew it needed patching
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
Mozilla releases geolocating WiFi sniffer for Android
As if the civilians who never change access point passwords will ever opt out of this one
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
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.
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.