Feeds

Mobe-makers' BLOATWARE is Android's Achilles heel

Chocolate Factory mostly absolved for security failings, say researchers

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
'Kim Kardashian snaps naked selfies with a BLACKBERRY'. *Twitterati gasps*
More alleged private, nude celeb pics appear online
Home Depot ignored staff warnings of security fail laundry list
'Just use cash', former security staffer warns friends
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
Freenode IRC users told to change passwords after securo-breach
Miscreants probably got in, you guys know the drill by now
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
BitTorrent's peer-to-peer chat app Bleep goes live as public alpha
A good day for privacy as invisble.im also reveals its approach to untraceable chats
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
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?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.