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Surprise Android 'KitKat' update fixes nasty OpenSSL vuln

Android 4.4.4 shipping just 18 days after the previous version

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Android fans who are hoping Google will debut a new version of the OS at its annual I/O conference in San Francsico next week might be in for a disappointment ... because the company is rolling out a new version this week.

On Friday, the Chocolate Factory published firmware images of Android 4.4.4 – yes, we're still talking "KitKat" – for the Nexus 4 and 5 phones and the Nexus 7 and 10 fondleslabs. The build number of the new release is KTU84P.

There are no official release notes so far, but Googler Sascha Prüter said in a post to his Google+ page that the update is "primarily addressing CVE-2014-0224."

That code refers to a wicked vulnerability in the OpenSSL crypto library that allows a "man in the middle" attack, where the attacker can intercept, decrypt, and potentially modify traffic between a client and server.

The update comes less than three weeks after the last KitKat version, and the rapid timing of the release has already upset the upgrade plans of at least one device manufacturer.

Motorola was the first company other than Google to start pushing the 4.4.3 update to its phones, but although many Moto X owners are already running 4.4.3 and the company was working on upgrading its Verizon Droid line, the sudden arrival of 4.4.4 meant it had to halt its plans and re-submit a new update to the wireless carriers.

"This was a significant unplanned effort that we had to undertake," Motorola employee David Schuster said via Google+. "We should be re-entering labs next week and hopefully getting TA (technical approval) in 3 to 5 weeks later depending on the carrier."

US mobile operator Sprint has confirmed via its online forums that it will roll out the 4.4.4 update to Nexus devices "in batches," beginning on Friday.

The bad news is that owners of KitKat devices from OEMs that have been slower than Motorola to distribute the latest updates will probably now have to wait even longer to receive an upgrade, as their device makers head back to their respective drawing boards. ®

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