Story 2015-06-20 BW4T Millions of Samsung Galaxy devices remotely exploitable

Millions of Samsung Galaxy devices remotely exploitable

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in security on (#BW4T)
Hackers can easily break into Samsung Galaxy phones and spy on the entire life of their users. A vulnerability in software on the phones lets hackers look through the phones’ camera, listen to the microphone, read incoming and outgoing texts and install apps, according to researchers. The hack works by exploiting a problem with the Samsung IME keyboard, a re-packaged version of SwiftKey that the company puts in Samsung Galaxy keyboards. That software periodically asks a server whether it needs updating — but hackers can easily get in the way of that request, pretend to be the server, and send malicious code to the phone.

Researchers have confirmed that the exploit works on versions of the Samsung Galaxy S6, the S6 Edge and Galaxy S4 Mini. But it may also be active on other Samsung Galaxy phones, since the keyboard software is installed on more devices. It doesn’t matter if users are using the keyboard or not. Samsung was notified about the vulnerability in December last year. Samsung is reported to have provided a patch to mobile network operators, who must push Android updates out themselves. There is little that owners of the phone can do beyond avoiding insecure WiFi networks. The most worrying part about this is that users can't stop their device from checking for updates. It may be time to grant superuser access to the device owner by default.
Reply 5 comments

Samsung for the WIN (Score: 1)

by pete@pipedot.org on 2015-06-20 20:55 (#BY1E)

certificates are too expensive. god only knows what my smarTv is trying to do right now :/ it runs java and hasn't had an update in a year :o

Re: Samsung for the WIN (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-06-21 01:03 (#BYF2)

Are you sure that updates can't be turned off? My SO has a Samsung phone and claims that she has set it to not update anything.

Re: Samsung for the WIN (Score: 2, Informative)

by pete@pipedot.org on 2015-06-21 01:41 (#BYGH)

you can tell the google play not to auto update, but it will still check. But this looks like a builtin 'feature' of the keyboard, with no options to turn it off, so like other system updates, you can't stop it from checking; and being a system app you can't disable it, or turn it off. Its certainly concerning that an app is attempting to sideload its own updates instead of using the Play Store.

i miss being able to run AOSP roms, this would have been a 2 second uninstall...but all the Nexus devices are now stupid large, and my galaxy nexus classic finally bit the dust. S4 mini fits the size requirements, but without rootability (thank you KNOX...grr)

Re: Samsung for the WIN (Score: 1)

by pete@pipedot.org on 2015-06-22 14:44 (#C2Q8)

i read a bit more - the updates are supposedly for getting fresh word lists, and the like. and using another keyboard doesn't help, it still checks in the background.

why does it seem like some programmers go out of their way to ensure vulnerabilities can't be mitigated?

Pity (Score: 1)

by hyper@pipedot.org on 2015-06-21 14:48 (#BZS8)

The sad part is that right now, even with the broken permissions system and lack of default root access, Samsung Android phones beat everything on the market; YMMV. It does look like the PC evolution all over again this time with Cyanogenmod in place of Linux.