Android SMS phishing exploit uncovered
Gingerbread, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean all affected
By Jon Gold | Network World US | Published: 11:47, 05 November 2012
A vulnerability that could be exploited to send deceptive text messages from some Android devices as part of a phishing scheme has been uncovered by a researcher at North Carolina State University.
Particularly worrisome is the fact that the vulnerability doesn't need any elevated app permissions in order to function, according to NCSU computer science professor Xuxian Jiang.
"The vulnerability allows a running [untrusted] app on the phone to fake an incoming SMS text message with arbitrary content, including the text message itself as well as the 'sending' phone number, which can be your friend in the contact list or simply your trusted banks," Jiang said.
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The flaw is apparently present in the Android Open-Source Project, and some versions of the software ranging from 1.6 (Donut) to 4.1 (Jelly Bean) are vulnerable. Jiang said that his team has been able to exploit it on the Samsung's Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S and Galaxy S III, HTC's One X and Inspire, and the Xiaomi MI-One.
Jiang praised Google for reacting quickly, confirming the presence of the vulnerability within two days of receiving the team's report. He expressed hope that a rapid patch would be forthcoming.
Jiang did not provide full technical details of the flaw, citing responsible disclosure issues, although he did describe the vulnerability as difficult to detect but easy to exploit, once found.
Jiang has been at the forefront of the discovery of several other Android security flaws, including, in June, a rootkit attack that might have allowed malicious software to be concealed on an affected device. He is the founder of the Android Malware Genome Project, an academic investigation of security threats affecting the platform.