News

4/12/2018
07:15 PM
50%
50%

Android Patches Can Skip a Beat

Researchers have found that some Android devices are skipping patches and lying about it.

When a device isn't patched to the most current OS level, it tends to be bad from a security viewpoint. When the device lies to you about it, claiming up-to-date software while remaining unpatched, it's much, much worse. "Much worse" is the state many Android owners find themselves in, according to two years of research by Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell of Security Research Labs (SRL).

Nohl and Lell found that Android patching practices are a crazy quilt of practices ranging from fully up to date to woefully behind patch versions to, in the worst cases, woefully behind while telling the users that they are up to date. The problem for users is that there's no one good way to tell the camp in which a device resides.

According to an article in Wired, SRL tested the firmware of 1,200 phones, from more than a dozen phone manufacturers, for every Android patch released in 2017. They found that a single vendor — Google — provided every patch for every device. All the other vendors, from a list that ranged from Samsung and Motorola to ZTE and TCL, missed at least some of the available patches. Worse, a smattering of devices from each of these vendors failed to install patches even though they told the user that software had been updated.

Now, there can be legitimate reasons for a user, whether individual or company, to skip a patch or delay its rollout. Patches may break individual corporate apps, change device or app behavior, or cause massive device slowdowns. The point is that the choice of whether to install a given patch or update rightly rests with the user, not the vendor.

There can also be legitimate reasons for a vendor to skip a patch or update. Android exists as an ecosystem existing on a staggering number of different hardware platforms, each of which must reach its own separate accord with changes to the operating system. If a vendor finds that a particular patch is incompatible with its hardware, then it can sit out a round and make up any security issues in later versions.

When a vendor chooses not to provide an update but revises the software date to make it appear that a patch has happened, it becomes much harder to justify the vendor's behavior. The false sense of security the revised OS date provides is especially pernicious at a time of malware that can literally destroy a device.

There are techniques by which a user can manually check for applied updates, but such techniques require methods that many users will not be comfortable using and most enterprise IT shops will find onerous. And there's no great way to know whether a particular device will be affected by any given patch that might be missed.

In the Wired article, Nohl touts defense in depth as the only realistic protection against the sort of vulnerabilities that may be created by a spoofed update. Defense in depth is a presumption for most corporate IT security schemes. It may well be that paranoia should be added to the toolbox if Android devices are in the pockets of corporate employees.

Related Content:

Interop ITX 2018

Join Dark Reading LIVE for a two-day Cybersecurity Crash Course at Interop ITX. Learn from the industry’s most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the agenda here. Register with Promo Code DR200 and save $200.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Securing Social Media: National Safety, Privacy Concerns
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/19/2018
Firms More Likely to Tempt Security Pros With Big Salaries than Invest in Training
Sara Peters, Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  4/19/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
How to Cope with the IT Security Skills Shortage
Most enterprises don't have all the in-house skills they need to meet the rising threat from online attackers. Here are some tips on ways to beat the shortage.
Flash Poll
[Strategic Security Report] Navigating the Threat Intelligence Maze
[Strategic Security Report] Navigating the Threat Intelligence Maze
Most enterprises are using threat intel services, but many are still figuring out how to use the data they're collecting. In this Dark Reading survey we give you a look at what they're doing today - and where they hope to go.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.