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Security experts release software to attack Android phones

post #1 of 57
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A tool for attacking devices running Google's Android operating system was released by security researchers today at the Defcon hackers conference in Las Vegas.

The root-kit tool was released to "to persuade manufacturers to fix a bug that lets hackers read a victim's email and text messages," according to report by Reuters.

"It wasn't difficult to build," said Nicholas Percoco, who leads Spider Labs. Working with a colleague, Percoco said it took about two weeks to develop the tool, which allows nefarious users to take control of the device and steal email and text messages.

Percoco distributed the root kit on DVDs at the Defcon conference, which is a meeting of around 10,000 security experts who can attend anonymously. Reuters noted that "law enforcement posts undercover agents in the [Defcon] audience to spot criminals and government officials recruit workers to fight computer crimes and for the Department of Defense."

Security issues hitting Android are contradicting the perception that malicious attacks are primarily directed at the largest installed base. The global installed base of Apple's iOS devices is at least four times as large as Android, which despite a lot of media attention, is still similar to Microsoft's beleaguered Windows Mobile in terms of market share.

Android's open-ended security defended

A day ago, security researchers at Lookout reported the potential for mobile software to take invisible actions that users were not aware were happening, noting that many apps on all platforms can gain access to private data, and specifically calling out a wallpapers app on Android for collecting device data, phone numbers, and voicemail numbers of users who downloaded the app, forwarding the information to servers in China.

At least one Android blog, Android Tapp, rushed to defend the platform, insisting that an initial report by Venture Beat was inciting "fear. uncertainty and doubt" by describing the data collection as "malicious."

The blog indicated that there was nothing wrong with developers collecting Android users' data without disclosure and for unknown purposes, suggesting instead that users should anticipate the full consequences of downloading third party software based on the permissions that software requests during installation.

While defending the developer involved in harvesting Android users' phone numbers, voicemail phone numbers, and device IDs through his "Jackeey Wallpaper" app, the Android fan blog pointed out that other Android wallpaper apps request permissions to read phone call information, read SD Card storage, and access contact data.

Following Lookout's report, Google pulled the wallpaper app in question, but other apps that do the same thing while requesting even more access to users' data are still available for download.

"True all users should indeed be aware of what they are installing from the Android Market," the Android blog concluded. "But was the mass negative press without covering the complete story warranted???"
post #2 of 57
Ohhh... Now That Really Helps, let's just do this to all mobile OS platforms to make your little point.

Note: Yes, They're ALL Vulnerable in one way or another).
"Why iPhone"... Hmmm?
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"Why iPhone"... Hmmm?
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post #3 of 57
Why is it suddenly okay to have a wallpaper app that harvests all your personal data as long as they tell you they will access your address book during installation?

I don't really see how this changes things. The app is still malicious and they are distributing it through the Android app store. We don't see the same things happen in the AppStore. I can't see enterprise customers interested in this platform. Imagine someone cold calling all your clients in your address book as you?
post #4 of 57
Heck, google releases software that attacks android.
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2011 13" 2.3 MBP, 2006 15" 2.16 MBP, iPhone 4, iPod Shuffle, AEBS, AppleTV2 with XBMC.
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post #5 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

At least one Android blog, Android Tapp, rushed to defend the platform, insisting that an initial report by Venture Beat was inciting "fear. uncertainty and doubt" by describing the data collection as "malicious."

...


"True all users should indeed be aware of what they are installing from the Android Market," the Android blog concluded. "But was the mass negative press without covering the complete story warranted???"

Android fans should be happy. If FUD is being created about Android, it means they are being recognized as significant. Welcome to the bigtime (unless you can't stand the taste of your own medicine).
post #6 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by quinney View Post

Android fans should be happy. If FUD is being created about Android, it means they are being recognized as significant. Welcome to the bigtime (unless you can't stand the taste of your own medicine).

Here in NZ the media was painting it as an issue that affects the iPhone 'and other smartphones'. A cursory mention was made of Android.
Why do people even buy papers anymore?
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..... the greatest fame comes from adding to human knowledge, not winning battles.
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post #7 of 57
"Security Researchers" Uh-Huh. Right.

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     197619842014  

     Where were you when the hammer flew?  

 

MacBook Pro Retina, 13", 2.5 GHz, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD

iPhone 5s • iPad mini Retina • Chromebook Pixel • Nexus 7

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post #8 of 57
This isn't even in the news yet if some idiot grips an iPhone hard enough to lower the signal it's front page.
Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
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Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
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post #9 of 57
Well the Android fanboys seem to be very silent on this issue.

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post #10 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Android blog concluded. "But was the mass negative press without covering the complete story warranted???"

Really, as mentioned, questionably poor reception is headline news (for the iPhone), but such seriously malicious apps are not? If that is so, then the world is truly upside down.

I personally am 100% behind the concept of the walled garden of the App store, and loth the idea of being a Droid user downloading bad stuff that I don't even know about (and who really reads all of the warning pop ups carefully, and understands the implications of touching 'OK'? Seriously.)

Uncurated App store = PC virus, malware, spyware Hell! That is so last decade and has no place in the now and future.

This has not gotten enough press, let alone too much.
post #11 of 57
All sizzle and no steak. These guys are trying to get attention by releasing a vague headline and letting it fester, claiming they will discuss details tomorrow.

Probably will end up being some crap you have to compile into a device-specific OS image, copy over via USB, and manually install after rebooting into recovery mode.

(Or as iPhone users call it, "jailbreaking")
post #12 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by applestockholder View Post

Uncurated App store = PC virus, malware, spyware Hell! That is so last decade and has no place in the now and future.

My Macs do not have a curated, walled App store... and yet I have never heard of a single legitimate virus/malware threat. The App store has nothing to do with it, other than being a means to protect idiots from themselves.
post #13 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by applestockholder View Post

Really, as mentioned, questionably poor reception is headline news (for the iPhone), but such seriously malicious apps are not? If that is so, then the world is truly upside down.

I personally am 100% behind the concept of the walled garden of the App store, and loth the idea of being a Droid user downloading bad stuff that I don't even know about (and who really reads all of the warning pop ups carefully, and understands the implications of touching 'OK'? Seriously.)

Uncurated App store = PC virus, malware, spyware Hell! That is so last decade and has no place in the now and future.

This has not gotten enough press, let alone too much.

Indeed. As Android becomes more popular, the marketplace is going to become a bigger threat as malicious developers take advantage of people who expect Google's "superior" platform to be as safe as the App Store (no, it's not perfect, but at least its users don't have to be paranoid about every single app on there). Expecting users to waste their time researching the app on forums, reading all the fine print, and knowing by the vague warnings what exactly will happen is not the way to build a platform for the masses. Not everybody with a phone is tech-savvy nor should they be expected to be (though, from a casual reading of Android blogs, they do) to use a phone, and they won't be as patient with the shortcomings of Android as they are with Windows. People expect phones to work much more reliably than they ever expected computers to.
post #14 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by shawnb View Post

My Macs do not have a curated, walled App store... and yet I have never heard of a single legitimate virus/malware threat. The App store has nothing to do with it, other than being a means to protect idiots from themselves.

With the latest iterations of OS X, Apple has introduced many initiatives to prevent security issues. One of the most interesting is known as address space layout randomization (ASLR) which is more commonly known as memory randomization. ASLR is important because it makes one of the most common security issues, the buffer overflow, almost impossible to exploit.
For those of you who dont understand it, think of it this way. Imagine the memory of your computer like a map of your hometown. Some vandal wants to change some of the street names to mess with your map. In order for him to do that, he needs to know the exact longitude and latitude of those streets. Its easy for him because he can buy a map of your hometown and get that same information.
The latest version of OS X chops that map up into little squares and randomly rearranges them, but is also smart enough to know how to continue reading the map unhindered by the confusing rearrangement. Nobody is able to buy a map arranged exactly like that so nobody can get the exact information they need to vandalize your map. It doesnt mean they cant. They just cant quite zero in on exact targets anymore.
On top of that, OS X also offers tagged downloading of applications (a system that watches very closely what gets downloaded and run on your computer and alerts the user before it runs for the first time), stronger forms of built-in encryption, more robust firewall features that watch for malware-like activity and application sandboxing to prevent hackers from targeting program-specific vulnerabilities.
post #15 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

This isn't even in the news yet if some idiot grips an iPhone hard enough to lower the signal it's front page.

They released it on a Friday to be kind to Google. A late Friday story won't get picked up quickly and very likely by Monday there will be something else going on to capture people's attention
post #16 of 57
Welcome to our world, Google.
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post #17 of 57
Quote:
My Macs do not have a curated, walled App store... and yet I have never heard of a single legitimate virus/malware threat.

Please don't become too cocky or shawnb will become shornb.

There are threats out there. Mac OS X makes exploits harder but they're not impossible by any means. You did change your router password, didn't you? If not, do it RIGHT NOW !

Quote:
The App store has nothing to do with it

Yes it does. The characteristics of Mac OS X and iOS are different, although they come from the same code base. I am very much a supporter of the App store concept, but I do my own Mac development. I manage my Macs closely but expect my iPhone to "just work"
post #18 of 57
Android = The Windows XP of Mobile.

CRAPPY. INSECURE. SECOND-RATE.
post #19 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by shawnb View Post

My Macs do not have a curated, walled App store... and yet I have never heard of a single legitimate virus/malware threat. The App store has nothing to do with it, other than being a means to protect idiots from themselves.

Your Macs are not ultra-portable devices running Mobile OSes either. And the fact that you have not heard doesn't mean malware and vulnerabilities don't exist. The App Store is part of the ecosystem that maintains security and reliability for the iOS platform, and therefore has a lot to do with it.
post #20 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by davesw;

Android = The Windows XP of Mobile.

CRAPPY. INSECURE. SECOND-RATE.

Really dude? I thought we were better than that...
post #21 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

suggesting instead that users should anticipate the full consequences of downloading third party software based on the permissions that software requests during installation.

Damn! We bought the phone and we need to do this extra work every damn apps we downloaded?
post #22 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by satcomer View Post

Well the Android fanboys seem to be very silent on this issue.

That's one benefit.

Funny how that Android blogger was whining about the special torment his beloved phone was given, and how it wasn't that big a problem. Ha, ha.

I don't know how big a problem it is, but I've got to say, the big centralized app store and the strict rules don't seem so bad to me now.

Tell me, if you've got a rootkit on your Samsung Droid S Incredible Ecstatic Orgasmic, how do you get it off?
post #23 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by LewysBlackmore View Post

Your Macs are not ultra-portable devices running Mobile OSes either. And the fact that you have not heard doesn't mean malware and vulnerabilities don't exist. The App Store is part of the ecosystem that maintains security and reliability for the iOS platform, and therefore has a lot to do with it.

Sandboxing each app and making sure that apps are produced either by HTML or by known libraries that can be analyzed before being approved has a lot to say for it, doesn't it?

Or, you can install AV software on the phone if you don't mind eating up battery and speed by having to run Mobile McAfee.
post #24 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstrmac View Post

With the latest iterations of OS X, Apple has introduced many initiatives to prevent security issues. One of the most interesting is known as address space layout randomization (ASLR) which is more commonly known as memory randomization. ASLR is important because it makes one of the most common security issues, the buffer overflow, almost impossible to exploit.
For those of you who dont understand it, think of it this way. Imagine the memory of your computer like a map of your hometown. Some vandal wants to change some of the street names to mess with your map. In order for him to do that, he needs to know the exact longitude and latitude of those streets. Its easy for him because he can buy a map of your hometown and get that same information.
The latest version of OS X chops that map up into little squares and randomly rearranges them, but is also smart enough to know how to continue reading the map unhindered by the confusing rearrangement. Nobody is able to buy a map arranged exactly like that so nobody can get the exact information they need to vandalize your map. It doesnt mean they cant. They just cant quite zero in on exact targets anymore.
On top of that, OS X also offers tagged downloading of applications (a system that watches very closely what gets downloaded and run on your computer and alerts the user before it runs for the first time), stronger forms of built-in encryption, more robust firewall features that watch for malware-like activity and application sandboxing to prevent hackers from targeting program-specific vulnerabilities.

To be fair, most of that is catching up with Windows. However, here's the question: do you want the mobile platform to become a cesspool of viruses, worms, rootkits, etc.? If not, I have no objection to the App Store, or to the coding being done with known libraries that can be analyzed by Apple before they're put on the phone. Put Adobe "one Flash app for all" software on the iPhone, and the Apple inspectors can't tell what the heck's going on.
post #25 of 57
Does it take you a long time to come up with these pointless posts, or do you just change the adjectives, rinse, and repeat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by davesw View Post

Android = The Windows XP of Mobile.

CRAPPY. INSECURE. SECOND-RATE.
post #26 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by shawnb View Post

My Macs do not have a curated, walled App store... and yet I have never heard of a single legitimate virus/malware threat. The App store has nothing to do with it, other than being a means to protect idiots from themselves.

But that is the whole point of the app store's so called walled garden - to protect users from themselves.

The problem with Android's philosophy of leaving it up to the user is that, most don't know what they are doing and in all likelihood that will end in disaster. Its exactly the same as XP - users do stupid things and because of the vulnerability of the platform, end up getting their id/cc stolen etc. But in actual fact its worse than XP, because the OS is completely open source - making it much easier for hackers to completely understand the system and find and exploit its flaws.
post #27 of 57
Shoe . Foot

Yup, why post news with half the facts. Especially when the missing half is that heaps of wallpaper apps on android send all your private info to unknown servers for spam.

Oh hang on, what is the problem actually. Google already does the same thing so they can target spam.
you only have freedom in choice when you know you have no choice
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you only have freedom in choice when you know you have no choice
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post #28 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post

...heaps of wallpaper apps on android send all your private info to unknown servers for spam.

Except they don't and you repeating that Dilger promoted rubbish won't make it true. There's no way to know if any of the thousands of AppStore apps are not doing that exact thing. Or other more dangerous stuff. That's the real problem - people like you believing that Apple is free of such potential risk and assuming that it's only a problem with Apple's opposition.

You need to read more than Dilger's propagandist diatribes if you really want to know what dangers there are. My guess is that you actually don't want to know though, and you'd rather reject reality in order to enjoy taking a shot at those evil Android promoters who you fear are threatening Apple's position in the smartphone market.
post #29 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by shawnb View Post

All sizzle and no steak. These guys are trying to get attention by releasing a vague headline and letting it fester, claiming they will discuss details tomorrow.

Probably will end up being some crap you have to compile into a device-specific OS image, copy over via USB, and manually install after rebooting into recovery mode.

(Or as iPhone users call it, "jailbreaking")

shawnb posts on Apple Insider. Check.

shawnb actually reads the article before posting. Fail.
post #30 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by davesw View Post

Android = The Windows XP of Mobile.

CRAPPY. INSECURE. SECOND-RATE.

Another troll. Sheesh. This time of the anti-Android variety. Rare on this site, but no less annoying than the rabid Fandroids.
post #31 of 57
This rootkit works as a loadable kernel module, so it needs root access to install.

It will be interesting the details to install it, if you have to have root acccess on the phone to install it proactively or if it uses som bug to reach it

If is the first, it's a threat as dangerous as rootkit programs for other Nix platforms (Linux, OS X, etc) if it's the later it can be a dangerous threat in the wild.
post #32 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goocher View Post

shawnb posts on Apple Insider. Check.

shawnb actually reads the article before posting. Fail.

Well, in the article is not explained how it is installed
post #33 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goocher View Post

Another troll. Sheesh. This time of the anti-Android variety. Rare on this site, but no less annoying than the rabid Fandroids.

It's not trolling if it's true.
post #34 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chopper View Post

Except they don't and you repeating that Dilger promoted rubbish won't make it true. There's no way to know if any of the thousands of AppStore apps are not doing that exact thing. Or other more dangerous stuff. That's the real problem - people like you believing that Apple is free of such potential risk and assuming that it's only a problem with Apple's opposition.

You need to read more than Dilger's propagandist diatribes if you really want to know what dangers there are. My guess is that you actually don't want to know though, and you'd rather reject reality in order to enjoy taking a shot at those evil Android promoters who you fear are threatening Apple's position in the smartphone market.

Yeah, it's not as if Apple actually tests and approves the apps it tests before it adds them to the App Store. Funny how people call out FUD and then spread some of their own. Apple might not be perfect, but it's funny how the worst example people have of an app getting by Apple is one that adds a secret tethering feature that people actually want. Personally, I'd rather be stuck with apps like that than ones that send my phone number to China.
The story turned out not to be as dire as everybody thought, but it's not as innocent as the fandroids now claim either.
post #35 of 57
because the Chinese hack into Google almost every day.
In a world of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
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post #36 of 57
Android is so insecure its not even funny. Android phones should not be allowed in the enterprise.
post #37 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaHarder View Post

Ohhh... Now That Really Helps, let's just do this to all mobile OS platforms to make your little point.

Note: Yes, They're ALL Vulnerable in one way or another).

Now you sound like the overzealous Apple fan you proclaim to hate. Just reverse the subject to Apple iOS and BINGO! Have fun.
post #38 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaHarder View Post

Ohhh... Now That Really Helps, let's just do this to all mobile OS platforms to make your little point.

Note: Yes, They're ALL Vulnerable in one way or another).


ANDROID is WAYYY WAYYYYYYYYY MORE Vulnerable and Insecure than the iPhone.
post #39 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by davesw View Post

Android is so insecure its not even funny. Android phones should not be allowed in the enterprise.

Oh really? Android phones are insecure because idiots download spamware apps without reading the security dialog? Yes, reading permissions can be tedious, but at least they're required to SHOW what permissions are accessed. Wasn't there a study that came out within the past few weeks showing that well over 20% of free apps in the iOS app store had access to your contacts and personal information? Do you have an easy way to know which ones do?

Android, like ANY other platform is only as secure as the user. Since the market is a bit more open then there are some additional risks involved, just like with a windows PC, if you decide to search for freeware, you're taking a bigger risk than going to a store and buying only titles they have on CD. That's why android implemented the permissions dialog. IN fact, one of the updates with FROYO is that it will not put in glaring red text if an app you downloaded had updated permissions.

Is it perfect? no. But it never claimed to be.


Secondly, this is a site for Apple related news. Why are you (the OP) posting this on your website? All this kind of trash does is affirm the fanboys who agree with you anyway, and ensure that people who don't will continue to ignore your site.
post #40 of 57
Quote:
Originally Posted by davesw View Post

ANDROID is WAYYY WAYYYYYYYYY MORE Vulnerable and Insecure than the iPhone.

Oh really? You mean that my android phone, without interaction from myself, is somehow less secure than an iphone in the same situation?

The weak point in any security is the user. Apple assumes you're an idiot, so they wall the garden to limit your choices (eliminating security threats, but also a lot of useful things as well). Google assumes that as a whole people are at least a bit intelligent, so they don't wall off the market. Yes, this means some additional danger with those added benefits, but EVERY app has these nice orange tags that tell you exactly what that app does. If you're too stupid/lazy to take the warning, that is YOUR fault.

Unless the exploit comes from something other than user error, it's not an issue with the OS.
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