Watching someone switch from Android and to iOS for the first time is a really interesting experience. The ease of wirelessly transferring data between operating systems (and devices!) and automatic installation/configuration of apps like they’re set up on their iPad is pretty magical. The near-automatic warning that they’re out of iCloud space and thus need to pony up a monthly payment to Apple is the only jarring part of the experience so far; Apple really needs to increase the default amount of storage provided to at least 10GB or so.
In 2012, Google unveiled a cloud-based scanner dubbed bouncer that was billed as a way for the company to detect malicious apps before they were made available in Play. Five years later, discovery of malicious apps like Charger are a regular occurrence. Google makes little reference to the tool these days.
Android: a new bag of hurt found each week.
From Ars Technica:
Researchers say they’ve uncovered a family of Android-based malware that has compromised more than 1 million Google accounts, hundreds of them associated with enterprise users.
Gooligan, as researchers from security firm Check Point Software Technologies have dubbed the malware, has been found in at least 86 apps available in third-party marketplaces. Once installed, it uses a process known as rooting to gain highly privileged system access to devices running version 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, and KitKat) and version 5 (Lollipop) of Google’s Android operating system. Together, the vulnerable versions account for about 74 percent of users.
Update: In a separate blog post also published Wednesday morning, Android security engineer Adrian Ludwig said he and other Google officials have worked closely with Check Point over the past few weeks to investigate Gooligan and to protect users against the threat it poses. He said there’s no evidence data was accessed from compromised accounts or that individual users were targeted. He also said Google has been using a service called Verify Apps to scan individual handsets for signs of Gooligan and other Ghost Push apps. When detected, device owners receive a warning and installations are halted.
“We’ve taken many actions to protect our users and improve the security of the Android ecosystem overall,” Ludwig wrote. “These include: revoking affected users’ Google Account tokens, providing them with clear instructions to sign back in securely, removing apps related to this issue from affected devices, deploying enduring Verify Apps improvements to protect users from these apps in the future and collaborating with ISPs to eliminate this malware altogether.”
While Google is taking this threat seriously – which is a good thing! – there is the problem where handsets shipping without the Google Play Store will remain vulnerable to this and other kinds of malware, unless those other app stores also try to warn users. Even Google’s warning system is, really, some chewing gum to cover up a broader security issue: a huge majority of Android phones have an outdated version of Android installed and will likely never see operating system or security updates. These vulnerabilities will continue, unabated, until Google actually can force updates to its partners. And history says that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
International customers and users of disposable or prepaid phones are the people most affected by the software. But the scope is unclear. The Chinese company that wrote the software, Shanghai Adups Technology Company, says its code runs on more than 700 million phones, cars and other smart devices. One American phone manufacturer, BLU Products, said that 120,000 of its phones had been affected and that it had updated the software to eliminate the feature.
Kryptowire, the security firm that discovered the vulnerability, said the Adups software transmitted the full contents of text messages, contact lists, call logs, location information and other data to a Chinese server. The code comes preinstalled on phones and the surveillance is not disclosed to users, said Tom Karygiannis, a vice president of Kryptowire, which is based in Fairfax, Va. “Even if you wanted to, you wouldn’t have known about it,” he said.
The manufacturer of the American branded phones didn’t know of this exfiltration vector. Consumers had no idea of the vector. And Google apparently had no idea that this data was being exfiltrated. But trust mobile devices for moderately-confidential work…
Just as Dirty Cow has allowed untrusted users or attackers with only limited access to a Linux server to dramatically elevate their control, the flaw can allow shady app developers to evade Android defenses that cordon off apps from other apps and from core OS functions. The reliability of Dirty Cow exploits and the ubiquity of the underlying flaw makes it an ideal malicious root trigger, especially against newer devices running the most recent versions of Android.
“I would be surprised if someone hasn’t already done that this past weekend,” Manouchehri said.
Another week, another extremely serious Android vulnerability that will remain unpatched for the majority of consumers until they throw out their current Android phone and purchase another one (though even that new one might lack the patches!). I wonder what serious vulnerability will come through next week?
One malicious app infected with the so-called DressCode malware had been downloaded from 100,000 to 500,000 times before it was removed from the Google-hosted marketplace, Trend Micro researchers said in a post. Known as Mod GTA 5 for Minecraft PE, it was disguised as a benign game, but included in the code was a component that established a persistent connection with an attacker controlled server. The server then had the ability to bypass so-called network address translation protections that shield individual devices inside a network. Trend Micro has found 3,000 such apps in all, 400 of which were available through Play.
“This malware allows threat actors to infiltrate a user’s network environment,” Thursday’s report stated. “If an infected device connects to an enterprise network, the attacker can either bypass the NAT device to attack the internal server or download sensitive data using the infected device as a springboard.”
BYOD: a great cost-saving policy. Until it leads to an attacker compromising your network and potentially exfiltrating business-vital resources.
It was a bad week for millions of Android phone users. Two critical vulnerabilities were disclosed but remain unpatched in a large percentage of devices, while, separately, malicious apps were downloaded as many as 2.5 million times from Google’s official Play Marketplace.
The vulnerabilities, which are similar in severity to the Stagefright family of bugs disclosed last year, have been fixed in updates Google began distributing Tuesday. A large percentage of Android phones, however, aren’t eligible to receive the fixes. Even those that do qualify don’t receive them immediately (the September updates are currently not available as over-the-air downloads for either of the Nexus 5X devices in my household). That gives attackers crude blueprints for exploiting vulnerabilities that remain unpatched on millions of devices.
The bag of hurt continues unabated.