Feeds

Mobe-makers' BLOATWARE is Android's Achilles heel

Chocolate Factory mostly absolved for security failings, say researchers

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Android's Achilles Heel is not Google, but vendors who pack their devices chock-full of dodgy software.

That's the conclusion reached by North Carolina State University researchers led by Xuxian Jiang, who has spent some time analysing Android security.

In the latest work, co-authored with Lei Wu, Michael Grace, Yajin Zhou and Chiachih Wu, the NCSU researchers analysed ten phones from five vendors. Their top-line results are:

  • More than 85 per cent of pre-loaded smartphone apps carry excessive privileges;
  • Most of those overprivileged apps were vendors' own customisations; and
  • Between 64 per cent and 85 per cent of the vulnerabilities the researchers discovered arose directly from vendor customisations.

The vendor phones they examined included Google's own Nexus 4 and Nexus S; Samsung's Galaxy S2 and S3; HTC's Wildfire S and One X; LG's Optimus P350 and P880; and Sony's Xperia SL and Arc S variants.

In devices released before November 2012, the Nexus S and Wildfire S led the shame-walk. In both of these devices, more than 90 percent of pre-installed apps had excessive privileges (that is, they demanded access to features that were either unnecessary to the app, or exposed the users); while in post-2012 release kit, the worst offenders were the Optimus P880 (more than 90 per cent of apps) and the Galaxy S3 (more than 87 percent).

Considering that the best performer in the entire test sample, the HTC One X, still had more than 78 per cent of pre-loaded apps claiming excessive privilege, there's hardly any reason for any vendor to laugh-and-point at the worst offenders.

The One X had the best vulnerability performance, at just 1.79 per cent of pre-loaded apps, while the Wildfire S was the worst at 14.97 per cent of apps.

The researchers also noted that the number of vulnerabilities on devices had no correlation to the number of apps or the size of pre-loaded code on them: “both Sony devices perform very well, despite having a very large number of apps, while the LG devices do poorly on security even though they have the fewest apps of any non-reference device”, they write. ®

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
DARPA-derived secure microkernel goes open source tomorrow
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
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
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.