Smartphone manufacturer HTC admitted several of its phones running Google's Android operating system have a security flaw that allows hackers or an application to view and access WiFi security information. The affected phones include the Desire HD, the Glacier, the Droid Incredible, the ThunderBolt, the Sensation, the Sensation 4G, the Desire S, the EVO 3D and the EVO 4G.
This week, the company posted a message on the Help page of its Website to inform affected users, although the company has known about the issue since September 2011 and was working with Chris Hessing, a senior engineer with Cloudpath Networks and Bret Jordan, a senior security architect with Open1X Group to provide a fix for the security flaw, which was labeled "critical" in a blog post from Jordan.
"Certain HTC builds of Android can expose the user's 802.1X WiFi credentials to any program with basic WiFi permissions," the post states. "When this is paired with the Internet access permissions, which most applications have, an application could easily send all stored WiFi network credentials (user names, passwords, and SSID [Service Set Identifier] information) to a remote server. This exploit exposes enterprise-privileged credentials in a manner that allows targeted exploitation."
HTC's Help page advised users of the issue, which can be resolved through an automatic software upgrade, though some users will have to upgrade manually. The blog states Google has done a code scan of every application currently in the Android Market, and there are no applications currently exploiting this vulnerability.
"HTC has developed a fix for a small WiFi issue affecting some HTC phones. Most phones have received this fix already through regular updates and upgrades," read the statement. "However, some phones will need to have the fix manually loaded. Please check back next week for more information about this fix and a manual download if you need to update your phone."
The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), a nonprofit public-private partnership focused on cyber-security awareness, recently released the results of a survey of consumer attitudes and behaviors toward mobile privacy and security. When it comes to specific security threats, every potential threat evoked concern, but 78 percent of smartphone users are particularly concerned about their lost or stolen phone falling into the wrong hands and its contents being misused. Users were most concerned about losing their password data (67 percent), but would be most willing to add security to protect the banking and other financial data on their phone.
Mobile threats exploded in 2011, according to an October report from IBM. Of the 24 mobile operating system vulnerabilities seen in the first half of 2011, at least half involved easy-to-exploit security holes that allowed attackers to launch arbitrary code execution attacks on the target device. Almost all the flaws involved client software remote-code-execution vulnerabilities that exposed users to drive-by-download attacks from malicious Websites, the report found.