Massive New Android Flaw Puts Hundreds of Millions of Devices at Risk

Before the dust has had a chance to settle on one major security flaw uncovered in the Android mobile operating system, a second massive vulnerability -- dubbed "Certifi-gate" -- has burst onto the scene. Researchers with Check Point Software Technologies described their findings yesterday during the Black Hat cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas.

The new vulnerability could allow attackers to "gain unrestricted device access, allowing them to steal personal data, track device locations, turn on microphones to record conversations, and more," according to Check Point. The company said it has notified all affected vendors -- including Samsung, LG, HTC and ZTE -- but warned the problem cannot be completely fixed with a patch.

Check Point has developed a scanner app that Android users can download from the Google Play Store and run to determine whether their devices are vulnerable. Zimperium, the security firm that discovered the previous major Android vulnerability, affecting the Stagefright media library, has also created a detector app that is available through the store.

'Ecosystem Architecture is Flawed'

The Certifi-gate vulnerability allows applications to gain illegitimate privileged access rights that are normally used to support remote applications, according to Check Point. Those applications might have come pre-installed on the device, or been intentionally downloaded by the user, but currently there is no way in Android to revoke the certificates that allow those privileged permissions.

"This vulnerability is very easily exploited, and can lead to the loss and dissemination of a user's personal data," said Dorit Dor, vice president of products at Check Point.

Ohad Bobrov and Avi Bashan, the two Check Point researchers who discovered the latest vulnerability, noted that their finding "demonstrates how the Android ecosystem architecture is flawed." This latest flaw "affects hundreds of millions of Android devices, as most popular OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have...

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