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.


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Samsung Shows Off New Foldable Smartphone Concept

At the Samsung Developer Conference this week, Samsung showed off a new conceptual design for a foldable smartphone, which could be technology that the company works on after the Galaxy Fold.

Rather than folding from tablet sized to smartphone sized like the Galaxy Fold, the design Samsung showed off today features a smartphone-sized device that folds in half much like a flip phone, collapsing down into a smaller size.


The device is also pictured folded in half in a way that would allow one half of it to serve as a stand for the other half, with a cooking video used as an example of a use case.

Samsung says that it plans to continue to explore a "range of new form factors" in the foldable category following the launch of the Galaxy Fold.

The Galaxy Fold finally debuted in September, months after its early 2019 unveiling. Samsung initially planned to launch the device earlier, but had to shelve it due to major issues that impacted the durability and performance of the device.

Samsung has since fixed those early problems, though the Galaxy Fold still seems to be a niche, high-cost device that's prone to damage and rather delicate, as we discovered in our hands-on.


There are rumors that Apple is exploring foldable display technology for the iPhone, but so far, we've seen no concrete evidence that Apple is seriously pursuing a foldable design at this point in time.

Tag: Samsung

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Samsung Issues Software Patch to Fix Screen Protector Flaw in Galaxy S10 Fingerprint Sensor

Samsung has issued a software patch for its Galaxy S10 smartphone to fix a flaw in the under-screen fingerprint sensor that allowed anyone to unlock the device with the help of a cheap screen protector (via Reuters).


The problem was brought to light last week, when a British user who applied a gel screen protector to her Galaxy S10 subsequently discovered that unregistered fingerprints could be used to unlock the device.

Samsung later admitted the issue can happen when patterns appearing on certain protectors that come with silicon cases are recognized along with fingerprints.

On Wednesday, Samsung issued an apology via its customer support app Samsung Members and told Galaxy phone owners to update their biometric authentication to the latest software version.
"Samsung Electronics takes the security of products very seriously and will make sure to strengthen security through continuing improvement and updates to enhance biometric authentication functions," the company said via the support app.
The Galaxy S10 is the latest in Samsung's flagship S series, which is updated each year and regarded as the iPhone's main rival, but the fingerprint recognition problem in its latest smartphone has already caused reputational damage, with some banks pulling their apps from the Play store in response to the security flaw.


Samsung originally aimed to bring an under-display fingerprint sensor to its smartphone line-up in 2018, but canceled the feature at the last minute due to similar technical issues surrounding the use of screen protectors.

In March, the Korean company launched the S10 with much fanfare and promoted its first commercial under-screen fingerprint recognition solution as "revolutionary" at the time.


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Samsung Admits Major Security Flaw in Galaxy S10 Under-Screen Fingerprint Sensor

A major flaw in Samsung's Galaxy S10 smartphone has been discovered that basically means any fingerprint can unlock the device with the help of a cheap screen protector.


According to the BBC, a British woman discovered the authentication flaw after she applied a cheap gel screen protector bought off eBay to her Galaxy S10.

She soon discovered that she was able to authenticate as the owner by pressing her left thumbprint against the phone's onscreen fingerprint sensor – the problem being that she hadn't registered her thumb with the device's biometric authenticaton system.

Her suspicions were confirmed when her husband was also able to unlock the phone by pressing either one of his thumbs on the screen's built-in sensor. The screen protector was then applied to another relative's Galaxy S10 and the same thing occurred.

Responding to the incident, Samsung said it was "aware of the case of S10's malfunctioning fingerprint recognition and will soon issue a software patch."

Previous reports have suggested that certain screen protectors are "incompatible" with Samsung's fingerprint sensor because they leave a small air gap that can interfere with the scanning. The sensor relies on ultrasound to detect the microscopic ridges that make every fingerprint unique.

The Galaxy S10 is the latest in Samsung's flagship S series, which is usually regarded as the iPhone's annual rival. The Korean company launched the phone in March and referred to its under-screen fingerprint authentication system as "revolutionary."

(Thanks, Chris!)


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Camera Comparison: iPhone 11 Pro Max vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

Samsung's Galaxy Note 10+, the company's newest flagship device, was unveiled just a month ahead of the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, and it's one of the main competitors to Apple's newest iPhone devices.

Both have triple-lens camera setups, so we thought we'd compare the camera quality of the iPhone 11 Pro Max with the camera quality of the Galaxy Note 10+ to see if one has an edge over another.

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The iPhone 11 Pro Max has 12-megapixel telephoto, wide-angle, and ultra wide-angle lenses. The Galaxy Note 10+ has the same general lens setup, but with a 12-megapixel telephoto lens, a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens, and a 16-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens, so it wins out when it comes to megapixels for the ultra wide-angle camera.

When it comes to photo quality, both of these cameras can take some amazing photos and a lot of the variance is going to depend on your personal shooting conditions, including subject, lighting, and other factors, but there are some differences to be aware of.


The Galaxy Note 10+ seems to overdo highlights, washing out photos and overexposing them in some situations, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max doesn't tend to do that. The Galaxy Note 10+ also has a tendency to oversaturate images somewhat, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max offers more true to life colors.


Some people prefer that slight oversaturation and the brighter light areas that the Samsung device can produce, even if it's not quite as accurate to what you're seeing in front of you when taking a photo. You can, of course, tone down saturation in post processing for Galaxy Note 10+ photos or bump it up for iPhone 11 Pro Max photos, but out of the camera, colors can tend to look a bit more vibrant on the Galaxy Note 10+.


Though the Galaxy Note 10+ has a higher megapixel ultra wide-angle camera than the iPhone 11 Pro Max, it doesn't really produce better pictures. Quality seems similar between the two devices, and on the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the new ultra wide-angle sensor is lacking some of the better features of its wide-angle camera, such as a lower aperture, larger sensor, optical image stabilization, and support for Night Mode.


So while the ultra wide-angle camera can get you some great wide shots of landscapes, architecture, and people, it's best for better lighting conditions, and the same seems to be true of Samsung's ultra wide-angle lens.

The Note 10+ and the 11 Pro Max each offer a nighttime mode for low-light photography, and both do a great job in poor lighting conditions using this feature. The Galaxy Note 10+'s penchant to overexpose can result in some brighter night time shots in some situations, but that's not always a desired effect. Night mode on the iPhone 11 Pro Max is designed to make sure a night time photo feels like it was taken at night, and that's an area where Apple excelled.


Samsung offers a feature called Live Focus, designed to offer an adjustable live background blurring effect for front and rear-facing photos, while the iPhone offers Portrait Mode. Both of these are similar, and have seen improvements over prior-generation smartphones from each manufacturer. Edge detection is better than ever, and the background blurring is better, so it's tough to pick a winner in this category.


As for video, both photos produced impressive 4K footage at 60 frames per second, though the 11 Pro Max had better auto stabilization features without having to delve into settings.

Both smartphones have similar front-facing setups. The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a 12-megapixel front-facing lens while the Galaxy Note 10+ has a 10-megapixel front-facing lens. There's a caveat with the iPhone's front-facing camera - in zoomed in shots (there's an option to zoom in and out now), the photos that you're getting by default are seven megapixels. You need to use the zoomed out mode to get the full 12-megapixel resolution.


When it comes to quality, the front-facing camera of the Galaxy Note 10+ seems to be a bit sharper than the iPhone 11 Pro Max, with more detail, while the iPhone 11 Pro has better color accuracy. Sometimes the Galaxy Note 10+ may be a bit too sharp for some people, so preference between the two will come down to how sharp you want your selfies to be.

Of course, the iPhone 11 Pro Max has Face ID for 3D facial biometric authentication, which the Note 10+ can't match. It does offer iris scanning and facial recognition capabilities, but neither are secure enough to serve as the sole authentication method for payments so there's still a fingerprint sensor.

When it comes down to it, both the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the Galaxy Note 10+ are capable of producing incredible, crisp photos that can often rival what you'll get out of a dedicated camera. Neither one is clearly better than the other, and choosing one will come down to platform preference more than anything else.


That said, the Galaxy Note 10+ appears to be better for those who prefer a more saturated, color rich image and exaggerated highlights, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max appears to be better at producing colors and lighting that's more true to life.

Do you prefer Note 10+ or iPhone 11 Pro Max and think there's a clear winner? Let us know in the comments.


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Hands-On With Samsung’s New Galaxy Fold

After months of waiting and a design overhaul, Samsung's first foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, is now available to customers who want to shell out $1,980 for a device that can convert from a phone into a tablet.

We decided to pick up one of Samsung's folding smartphones to test it out to see if it's worth the price point, so check out our video for our Galaxy Fold unboxing and first impressions.

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Samsung initially planned to release the Galaxy Fold in early 2019, but after providing the device to reviewers, a host of major issues were uncovered that impacted the durability and performance of the device.


Samsung ultimately canceled the Galaxy Fold's launch and went back to the drawing board to address some of the problems that led to multiple broken devices within a matter of days after reviewers received a review unit.


So the new Galaxy Fold is supposed to have a more durable display with a better protective layer (which some reviewers thought was meant to be removed on the original version) and a strengthened hinge to prevent breakage from dust and debris, and other durability changes.

Samsung's updated device, as we discovered, comes with a whole host of paperwork and instruction, which makes for an odd unboxing experience. The Galaxy Fold is still delicate enough that users need to be instructed in the specifics of how to use it without breaking it. Many of the instructions are also outlined in a Samsung video:


Basically Samsung warns Galaxy Fold owners to use a light touch when interacting with the device, avoid water and dust, avoid excessive pressure, and to keep it away from objects that can be damaged by magnets. It's unsettling getting such a long list of warnings with a new smartphone.

Design wise, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is massive in size and heavy compared to a standard smartphone, but that's no surprise since it unfolds from a thick 4.6-inch smartphone into a 7.3-inch tablet.


There are volume and power buttons on the right side along with a fingerprint sensor, which is best suited to a thumb due to its position. There's a triple-lens camera at the back, two front-facing cameras at the front when it's unfolded, and one other camera on the front above the display when folded.


The versatility of the Galaxy Fold is useful because the small 4.6-inch folded size is ideal for one-handed use, but then the 7.3-inch display is ideal for when you have the time and space to use the phone unfolded. It's an interesting compromise for those smartphone users who have always preferred a smaller form.


Using a folded phone in practice is novel and it's not quite like anything else that's out there. The 7.3-inch display looks great, and it's perfect for media consumption and multitasking. Typing with the keyboard works well despite the split design.


There are new T-shaped brackets at the top and bottom of the Galaxy Fold that are meant to address the hinge issues present in the prior Galaxy Fold design. It also looks more resistant to dust, and the built-in screen protector now extends to the hinges and can't be accidentally removed.


The crease in the middle of the Galaxy Fold isn't really noticeable in person when it's in use, and it mostly blends right in.


We've only had the Galaxy Fold for a couple of hours, so it remains to be seen how well it's going to hold up over time, but Samsung is now offering a $149 screen replacement program for those who experience issues.


Despite the improvements, we've already heard reports of durability issues. TechCrunch's Galaxy Fold, for example, already has a broken display even though it wasn't damaged. TechCrunch's Brian Heater says he believes pressing on the display to close it may have caused the damage.

Since the Galaxy Fold is priced starting at $2,000, it's a niche smartphone, but if it proves popular, folding display technology could be the future.

Rumors and patents suggest Apple has explored folding display technology for the iPhone, but there's thus far been no concrete evidence that Apple has plans to release an iPhone that folds in half.


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Samsung Ad Encourages iPhone Users to Switch to the Galaxy Note10 and ‘Fall in Love’ With Bokeh Video

On the heels of Apple introducing the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro this week, Samsung has shared a new ad that calls on iPhone users to "switch to the Galaxy Note10" and "fall in love" with its bokeh video feature.

The 15-second ad shows a man and a woman standing side by side, holding an iPhone and Galaxy Note10 respectively, as they both record a couple's marriage proposal. However, unlike the iPhone, the Galaxy Note10 is able to blur the background of the video in real time for a bokeh effect.


Samsung then gets to the point: "Missing a little… je ne sais quoi? Switch to the Galaxy Note10. And fall in love with Live Focus Video."

While recent iPhones do have Portrait Mode for blurring the background of people, pets, and objects in photos, Apple does not offer a bokeh video feature in the stock Camera app. However, it is possible to achieve a somewhat shallower depth of field using third-party camera apps like FiLMiC Pro.

Samsung released the Galaxy Note10 on August 23, with pricing starting at $949 in the United States. iPhone 11 Pro models start at $999, with pre-orders beginning today ahead of in-store availability on Friday, September 20.

Tag: Samsung

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Samsung Cancels Galaxy Fold Pre-Orders in the U.S., Offers $250 Credit as Compensation

Ahead of the upcoming Galaxy Fold launch, Samsung canceled pre-orders for customers who had previously signed on to purchase the device earlier this year.

Samsung this morning sent out emails to pre-order customers letting them know that their existing pre-orders, many of which were placed back in April, have been canceled. Samsung cites a rethinking of the customer experience as the reason why pre-orders were canceled.

Ensuring that you have the best possible experience with this revolutionary new technology is our top priority. We are taking the time to rethink the entire customer experience - from purchase to unboxing, to post-purchase service - so in the meantime, we have, regrettably, decided to cancel your existing pre-order. While not an easy decision to make, we believe this is the right thing to do.
Customers who had pre-orders will need to place orders once again when the Galaxy Fold launches in the United States later in September. Samsung is planning to launch the Galaxy Fold in South Korea on Friday, September 6, but the U.S. rollout is being delayed.

Part of the new ordering process will include Samsung's "Galaxy Fold Premier Service," which offers customers "direct access" to Samsung experts and an optional one-on-one onboarding session that walks users through the Galaxy Fold features.


Pre-order customers who had their orders canceled are receiving a $250 Samsung credit that's redeemable for anything on the Samsung.com website.

Samsung initially delayed the Galaxy Fold after multiple reviewers ran into issues with the device. Some experienced screen failures, while others mistakenly removed a protective screen component that wasn't meant to be removed.

Samsung reengineered the Galaxy Fold to address the problems and improve durability. The top protective layer of the display was extended beyond the bezel so that it looks integrated and not like a screen protector to be removed.


The top and bottom hinge areas were strengthened with protection caps to prevent dust from getting under the display, additional metal layers under the display were included for reinforcement, and the space between the hinge and the body was reduced.

The Galaxy Fold is Samsung's first smartphone with a foldable display, able to convert from a 4.6-inch smartphone when folded to a 7.3-inch phablet when opened up. It features a 7-nanometer processor, 12GB RAM, 512GB storage, six cameras, and an operating system designed for the folding mechanism.

The Galaxy Fold is priced starting at $1,980, and its new September launch date will put it in competition with Apple's 2019 flagship devices, which will be unveiled at a September 10 event next week.


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Samsung Reveals New Launch Dates for the Delayed Galaxy Fold

Samsung has announced the Galaxy Fold will go on sale in South Korea on Friday, September 6, over five months after its original scheduled launch date and just days ahead of Apple's annual iPhone event.


According to The Verge, the Galaxy Fold will also be available in France, Germany, and Singapore come September 18. Samsung hasn't revealed an exact date for the UK or US, but the handset is expected to arrive in those countries in the coming weeks. Initially at least, the phone will be available in just a single configuration, offering 512GB of storage, 12GB of memory, and 5G support, with a Montblanc luxury case thrown in.

Samsung will be crossing its fingers and its toes in the hope of a fault-free rollout this time around. The folding smartphone was initially meant to be in the hands of customers in April, but it was delayed following multiple reports from reviewers of broken units after just a few days' use. Many reviewers experienced issues while testing the device, including random bulges appearing on the 7.3-inch display and flickering screens. In many cases, the issues were enough to make the $1,980 device completely unusable.

An independent investigation revealed that the folding phone lacked adequate protection against the ingress of debris between the OLED screen and the chassis bezel. Samsung recalled all Fold devices that were distributed to reviewers and said it was postponing the launch of the hybrid handset while it completed a redesign to resolve the display failures. The South Korean firm said in July that the phone would relaunch in September, but didn't specify a date.

Samsung is already working on its next bendable smartphone, according to a Bloomberg report earlier this week. Projected to launch early next year, it's said to be a flip phone-style 6.7-inch device that can be folded down into a compact-sized square.

Apple's iPhone event takes place on September 10, when the company is expected to launch three new iPhones with more advanced cameras. The line-up includes two OLED models in 5.8 and 6.5 inches and one LCD model that's 6.1 inches. Apple is said to be exploring folding screen technology, but nothing suggests it plans to release a foldable smartphone in the near future.


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Samsung Plans to Launch a Flip Phone-Style Device With 6.7-inch Bendable Display Early Next Year

Undeterred by its recent Galaxy Fold un-launch, Samsung is apparently set to unveil a luxury smartphone early next year that can be folded down into a compact-sized square, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

Samsung's Galaxy Fold hasn't even been released yet
The South Korean smartphone giant is working on a device with a 6.7-inch inner display that shrinks to a pocketable square when it's folded inward like a clamshell, according to people familiar with the product's development.
The smartphone giant is said to be collaborating with American designer Thom Browne on the upcoming phone, with the aim of "appealing to a broader range of consumers that includes those more interested in fashion, status and luxury than a device's tech specs." At the same time, the device will reportedly feature cutting-edge display technology and offer the nostalgic appeal of rejuvenating the flip-phone form factor.

The foldable phone is said to include a hole-punch selfie camera at the top of the inner display, while on the outside it will have two cameras that face rearwards when the phone is open and become front-facing when the device is flipped closed.

According to the paper's sources, Samsung aims to make its second bendable smartphone more affordable and thinner than this year's Galaxy Fold, although the launch of the successor device "may... hinge on how well the Fold performs after its imminent launch."

On that note, Samsung is said to have completed its redesign of the Galaxy Fold to resolve the multiple display failures that led to its delay. The South Korean company originally planned to roll out its $1,980 foldable phone on April 26, but was forced to delay the launch after several units sent out to reviewers broke during testing.

All of the issues were related to the device's screen, which was vulnerable to debris ingress. The new version of the Galaxy Fold, featuring several design and construction improvements, is now set to launch in September in select markets, with specific launch details to be shared as a launch approaches.

There have been some suggestions that Apple is exploring folding screen technology, but right now there are no rumors indicating Apple plans to actually release a foldable smartphone in the near future.


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