Qualcomm Security Flaw Endangers Millions of Android Devices
A vulnerability introduced to Android smartphones five years ago was fixed in March, but many exposed devices are no longer supported by their OEMs.Qualcomm has patched a security flaw that put Android smartphones powered by the chip maker's products at risk of data theft, but millions of the devices could remain at risk. Security researchers with Mandiant's Red Team discovered the vulnerability earlier this year, and Qualcomm developed a fix for it and sent it to device makers in March. However, the problem is that the vulnerability was first introduced five years ago and has infected countless Android-based smartphones. Because of the ages of some of these devices, many are no longer supported by their OEMs and are unlikely to receive the fix. Researchers with security software provider FireEye outlined the security issue—labeled CVE-2016-2060—in a blog post May 5, saying it was hard to determine how many devices were affected because of how long the vulnerability was in the wild before being discovered and the large number of devices that could have been impacted. Qualcomm is the world's largest supplier of systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) for smartphones. "Since many flagship and non-flagship devices use Qualcomm chips and/or Qualcomm code, it is possible that hundreds of models are affected across the last five years," Jake Valletta, senior security consultant at Mandiant, a FireEye company, wrote in the post on the FireEye blog. "To provide some API numbers, Android Gingerbread (2.3.x) was released in 2011. This vulnerability was confirmed on devices running Lollipop (5.0), KitKat (4.4), and Jellybean MR2 (4.3), and the Git commit referenced in the post is Ice Cream Sandwich MR1 (4.0.3)."
According to Valletta, CVE-2016-2060 is found on the "netd" daemon, a part of the Android operating system. The security flaw was introduced when Qualcomm created new APIs as part of its network manager system service to offer improved networking capabilities to smartphones, such as better tethering. Through this, smartphones were connected to the netd daemon and thus exposed to the vulnerability.