Android Security Flaw Let Apps Access People’s Cameras for Secret Video and Audio Recordings

A security flaw in Android smartphones from companies like Google and Samsung allowed malicious apps to record video, take photos, and capture audio, uploading the content to a remote server sans user permission.

The vulnerability was discovered by security firm Checkmarx, and was highlighted today by Ars Technica. The flaw had the potential to leave high-value targets open to having their surroundings illicitly recorded by their smartphones.

Image via Checkmarx

Android is meant to prevent apps from accessing the camera and the microphone on a smartphone without user permission, but with this particular exploit, an app could use the camera and the microphone to capture video and audio without express user consent. All an app needed to do was get permission to access a device's storage, which is commonly granted as most apps ask for this.

To demonstrate how the flaw worked, Checkmarx created a proof-of-concept app that appeared to be a weather app on the surface but was scooping up copious amounts of data in the background.

The app was able to take pictures and record videos even when the phone's screen was off or the app was closed, as well as access location data from the photos. It was able to operate in stealth mode, eliminating the camera shutter sound, and it could also record two-way phone conversations. All of the data was able to be uploaded to a remote server.

When the exploit was used, the screen of the smartphone being attacked would display the camera when recording video or taking a photo, which would let affected users know what was going on. It could be used secretly when a smartphone display was out of sight or when a device was placed screen down, and there was a feature for using the proximity sensor to determine when a smartphone was facedown.

Google addressed the vulnerability in its Pixel phones through a camera update that was launched back in July, and Samsung has also fixed the vulnerability, though it's not known when. From Google:
"We appreciate Checkmarx bringing this to our attention and working with Google and Android partners to coordinate disclosure. The issue was addressed on impacted Google devices via a Play Store update to the Google Camera Application in July 2019. A patch has also been made available to all partners."
From Samsung:
"Since being notified of this issue by Google, we have subsequently released patches to address all Samsung device models that may be affected. We value our partnership with the Android team that allowed us to identify and address this matter directly."
According to Checkmarx, Google has said that Android phones from other manufacturers could also be vulnerable, so there may still be some devices out there that are open to attack. Google has not disclosed specific makers and models.

Since this is an Android bug, Apple's iOS devices are not affected by the security flaw.

It's not known why apps were able to access the camera without user permission. In an email to Ars Technica, Checkmarx speculated that it could potentially be related to Google's decision to make the camera work with Google Assistant, a feature that other manufacturers may have also implemented.


This article, "Android Security Flaw Let Apps Access People's Cameras for Secret Video and Audio Recordings" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Researcher Gives Apple Details of macOS Keychain Security Flaw Despite No Mac Bug Bounty Program

A German teenager who discovered a macOS Keychain security flaw last month has now shared the details with Apple, after having initially refused to hand them over because of the company's lack of a bug bounty program for the Mac.


Eighteen-year-old Linus Henze dubbed the zero-day macOS vulnerability he found "KeySteal," which, as demoed in the video above, can be used to disclose all sensitive data stored in the Keychain app.

Henze said he decided to reveal the details to Apple because the bug "is very critical and because the security of macOS users is important to me."


After Henze released the video in early February, Apple's security team reached out to him, but the researcher said he wouldn't disclose the details without a cash reward, arguing that discovering the vulnerabilities takes time.

"Even if it looks like I'm doing this just for money, this is not my motivation at all in this case," said Henze. "My motivation is to get Apple to create a bug bounty program. I think that this is the best for both Apple and Researchers."

Apple has a reward program for iOS that provides money to those who discover bugs, but there is no similar payment system for macOS bugs.


This article, "Researcher Gives Apple Details of macOS Keychain Security Flaw Despite No Mac Bug Bounty Program" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Intel CEO Pledges Commitment to Security Following Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today wrote an open letter to Intel customers following the "Meltdown" and "Spectre" hardware-based vulnerabilities that impact its processors.

In the letter, Krzanich says that by January 15, updates will have been issued for at least 90 percent of Intel CPUs introduced in the past five years, with updates for the remainder coming at the end of January.

For Apple customers, macOS and iOS devices have been patched with protection against Spectre and Meltdown. Meltdown was addressed in macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 and iOS 11.2, while Spectre mitigations were introduced in a macOS 10.13.2 supplemental update and iOS 11.2.2, both of which were released this week. The vulnerabilities have also been addressed in older versions of macOS and OS X.

According to Krzanich, going forward, Intel promises to offer timely and transparent communications, with details on patch progress and performance data. Because Spectre and Meltdown are hardware-based vulnerabilities, they must be addressed through software workarounds. In some cases, these software patches cause machines to perform more slowly.

Apple users do not need to worry about performance impacts. According to Apple, Meltdown had no measurable reduction in performance on devices running macOS and iOS across several benchmarks. Spectre, fixed through a Safari mitigation, had no measurable impact on most tests, but did impact performance by less than 2.5% on the JetStream benchmark. Apple says it plans to continue to refine its mitigations going further.

In addition to remaining transparent about the performance impact of the software fixes, Krzanich says Intel will commit to disclosing security vulnerabilities and sharing hardware innovations that will, in the future, prevent such attacks.
Our customers' security is an ongoing priority, not a one-time event. To accelerate the security of the entire industry, we commit to publicly identify significant security vulnerabilities following rules of responsible disclosure and, further, we commit to working with the industry to share hardware innovations that will accelerate industry-level progress in dealing with side-channel attacks. We also commit to adding incremental funding for academic and independent research into potential security threats.
For those who missed the news last week, Spectre and Meltdown are serious hardware-based vulnerabilities that take advantage of the speculative execution mechanism of a CPU, potentially allowing hackers to gain access to sensitive information.

Spectre and Meltdown impact all modern processors, including those used in Mac and iOS devices, and these two vulnerabilities will continue to be an issue for the foreseeable future as addressing them entirely requires new hardware design. Apple has prevented Spectre and Meltdown from affecting customers through software updates, but all hardware and software manufacturers will need to be wary of additional speculative execution attacks going forward.

Apple customers should make sure to keep their Macs and iOS devices up to date with the latest software to remain protected from malicious attacks that might take advantage of the exploits.


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