Check Point Software Technologies has uncovered a vulnerability in Android that affects devices made by major manufacturers including LG, Samsung, HTC and ZTE. The team disclosed its findings during a briefing session at Black Hat USA 2015 in Las Vegas this week. “Certifi-gate” is a vulnerability that allows applications to gain illegitimate privileged access rights which are typically used by remote support applications that are either pre-installed or personally installed on the device.
Attackers can exploit Certifi-gate to gain unrestricted device access, allowing them to steal personal data, track device locations, turn on microphones to record conversations, and more.
Android offers no way to revoke the certificates that are providing privileged permissions. Left unpatched, and with no reasonable workaround, devices are exposed right out of the box. All affected vendors were notified by Check Point about Certifi-gate and have begun releasing updates.
The vulnerability cannot be fixed, and can only be updated when a new software build is pushed to the device – a notoriously slow process. Android also offers no way to revoke certificates used to sign vulnerable plugins.
Android is by far the leading mobile operating system in use in South Africa, with Vodacom alone reporting last month that 60% of its user base, or 6,1-million subscribers, are Android users.
“Every day, people around the globe use mobile devices to manage important aspects of their lives: they access work email, manage bank accounts, and track health information,” says Doros Hadjizenonos, country manager of Check Point South Africa. “The problem is, they rarely stop to think about whether their data is secure. This vulnerability is very easily exploited, and can lead to the loss and dissemination of a user’s personal data. It’s time to take mobile security seriously.”