World Bulletin / News Desk
Hacking experts on Wednesday demonstrated ways to attack Android smartphones using methods they said work on virtually all such devices in use today, despite recent efforts by search engine giant Google to boost protection.
Experts showed off their prowess at the Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas, where some 6,500 corporate and government security technology workers gathered to learn about emerging threats to their networks.
"Google is making progress, but the authors of malicious software are moving forward," said Sean Schulte of Trustwave's SpiderLabs.
Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano declined to comment on the security concerns or the new research.
Accuvant researcher Charlie Miller demonstrated a method for delivering malicious code to Android phones using a new Android feature known as near field communications.
"I can take over your phone," Miller said.
Near field communications allow users to share photos with friends, make payments or exchange other data by bringing Android phones within a few centimeters of similarly equipped devices such as another phone or a payment terminal.
Miller said he figured out how to create a device the size of a postage stamp that could be stuck in an inconspicuous place such as near a cash register at a restaurant. When an Android user walks by, the phone would get infected, said Miller.
He spent five years as a global network exploit analyst at the U.S. National Security Agency, where his tasks included breaking into foreign computer systems.
Miller and another hacking expert, Georg Wicherski of CrowdStrike, have also infected an Android phone with a piece of malicious code that Wicherski unveiled in February.
That piece of software exploits a security flaw in the Android browser that was publicly disclosed by Google's Chrome browser development team, according to Wicherski.
Google has fixed the flaw in Chrome, which is frequently updated, so that most users are now protected, he said.
But Wicherski said Android users are still vulnerable because carriers and device manufacturers have not pushed those fixes or patches out to users.
Marc Maiffret, chief technology officer of the security firm BeyondTrust, said: "Google has added some great security features, but nobody has them."
Experts say iPhones and iPads don't face the same problem because Apple has been able to get carriers to push out security updates fairly quickly after they are released.
Two Trustwave researchers told attendees about a technique they discovered for evading Google's "Bouncer" technology for identifying malicious programs in its Google Play Store.
They created a text-message blocking application that uses a legitimate programming tool known as java script bridge. Java script bridge lets developers remotely add new features to a program without using the normal Android update process.
Companies including Facebook and LinkedIn use java script bridge for legitimate purposes, according to Trustwave, but it could also be exploited maliciously.
To prove their point, they loaded malicious code onto one of their phones and remotely gained control of the browser. Once they did that, they could force it to download more code and grant them total control.
"Hopefully Google can solve the problem quickly," said Nicholas Percoco, senior vice president of Trustwave's SpiderLabs. "For now, Android is the Wild West."
Critics slam company after claims it allowed NSA to scan all users’ emails
Shenzhou-11 to take 2 astronauts into space, dock with orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 within 2 days
A German politician has said Facebook should pay for failing to remove online hate comment
For the first time in over 120 years, a design patent case will be heard by the US supreme court.
Toyota is usually associated with cars, but it has been investing millions in robotics and Kirobo is its first commercial foray into the sector.
A joint Mongolian-Japanese expedition found the giant print, which measures 106 centimetres (42 inches) long and 77 centimetres wide.
Current conditions may ‘commit Earth to an eventual total warming of 5 degrees Celsius’ in few thousand years, author says
Cyber-attack in 2014 likely the largest data breach in history
Photographs, videos, polls, quoted tweets no longer count toward 140-character limit
2.5 million phones recalled days before Apple introduces iPhone 7
Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to continue effort to provide satellite for Africa
3.7-billion-year-old rock suggests life began soon after Earth’s formation
Facebook will target advertising to Whatsapp users but will steer clear of third party advertising content
The global seed giant Monsanto is pulling its application to introduce GMO cotton seed after a row with the Indian government, which is demanding the company share its technology with local seed companies.
Proxima b could be visited by spacecraft within next 100 years
According to Space X, the rocket “will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating,” and is part of an ongoing effort to reuse rocket parts