Android flaw leaves Samsung vulnerable, users charge

A suspected fault in how Samsung Electronics has implemented the Android's kernel in several of its devices could allow a malicious application to gain total control over the device.

The vulnerability was described on Saturday by the user "alephzain" on XDA Developers, a forum for mobile developers. It affects devices using the Exynos processor models 4210 and 4412. Alephzain wrote that the issue was a "huge mistake." (See also "Mobile Malware: It's bad now, but will be worse in 2012.")

By Sunday, another developer on the forum, Chainfire, had posted an Android application package (.apk) file that will successfully exploit the vulnerability.

"You should be very afraid of this exploit," Chainfire wrote. "Any app can use it to gain root without asking and without any permissions on a vulnerable device."

Affected devices include versions of Samsung's S2 and S3 mobile phones, the Galaxy Note and Note II, Galaxy Note Plus and Galaxy Note 10.1, according to the post by Chainfire.

Hackers have increasingly targeted the Android operating system, building applications that appear benign but can contain code that can steal data from a device or perform other malicious actions. Google has responded to the rise of malicious Android applications by implementing an automated scanner in its Play marketplace to detect malicious ones.

But unvetted Android applications abound around the internet, posing a risk to users. Security vendors have found malicious applications that send SMS messages to premium rate numbers and ones that intercept one-time passcodes for banking applications.

Samsung officials did not have an immediate comment.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

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