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Knox vuln is Android not us, says Samsung

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Samsung and Google have taken an unusual step, jointly posting an advisory that a security problem revealed last month is not Samsung-specific, but is in fact an Android vulnerability.

Late in December, a researcher from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel said there was a gap in the Knox security implementation in Samsung's Galaxy S4 devices. Based on TrustZone technology, the Knox environment provides a virtualised secure container that's meant to protect sensitive data from attack, even if the non-secure part of a phone is compromised.

The researcher, PhD student Mordechai Guri, found that an app could be installed in the insecure part of the phone that would be able to capture and expose communications that were meant to be secured.

At the time, Samsung disputed the university's characterisation of the security vulnerability as a “category one” problem (that is, high severity), claiming that because the tests were conducted on store-bought phones, the target devices lacked the full enterprise suite of security features.

However, in an announcement published on Thursday, January 9, Samsung says: “Samsung has verified that the exploit uses legitimate Android network functions in an unintended way to intercept unencrypted network connections from/to applications on the mobile device.

“This research did not identify a flaw or bug in Samsung KNOX or Android; it demonstrated a classic Man in the Middle (MitM) attack, which is possible at any point on the network to see unencrypted application data,” the statement continues.

In that statement, Samsung claims that it collaborated with Google to confirm that the issue is an Android vulnerability. The company says enterprise users should guard against the issue using mobile device management, per-application VPNs, and the Knox FIPS 140-2 capabilities.

A Google spokesperson confirmed the company's involvement in confirming Samsung's belief that the problem is in Android, in an e-mail to The Register. ®

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