Saturday, 21 April, 2018

Android Phone Makers 'Forget' Google Security Updates

Emmett Howard | 14 April, 2018, 09:30

An undisclosed list of Android phone makers have been actively deceiving customers about their devices' security against malware and hacking vulnerabilities, according to Wired, which spoke with researchers at the Security Research Lab (SRL) based in Germany.

While Sony and Samsung phones were found to have missed few patches, on average, devices made by TCL and ZTE had on average four or more missed updates they claimed to have installed.

For the past two years, SRL researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell have analyzed the content of the security updates delivered by today's biggest Android OEMs. Obviously some are better than others and despite not being released at the same time, important updates for all smartphones is at least supposedly guaranteed through special monthly security patches monthly (which is still not done by all manufacturers). "Probably for marketing reasons, they just set the patch level to nearly an arbitrary date, whatever looks best", Nohl is quoted as saying.

Unlike Apple and iOS, Google has, for years, relied on third-party manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and HTC to produce the hardware for its immensely popular Android operating system.

Notifications from messaging apps will now include a preview of the last message sent in the conversation - and enable users to send a reply direct from the notification. But the Samsung J3 (2016) claimed to have every 2017 Android patch installed when in truth it had missed 12 updates, including a pair that were considered "critical" to keeping the handset safe and secure.

Bringing up the rear were ZTE and TCL, whose phones had an average of more than four missed Android security practices.

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Our binary-only analysis technique applies to Android and many other domains where patch levels need to be measured without access to source code.

Nohl agrees that exploiting missing patches remains hard for hackers, who are more likely to use methods like rogue apps snuck onto the Google Play Store or less secure third party sources.

That's because crucial patches are commonly skipped over by some of the most prolific players in the smartphone market, according to in-depth findings from Security Research Labs (SRL).

Following the results of the research, Google said that it will investigate the findings.

"We're working with [SRL] to improve their detection mechanisms to account for situations where a device uses an alternate security update instead of the Google-suggested security update", Google's Android product security lead, Scott Roberts, told the newspaper. The company further stated that in some cases, patches might have been missing because the phone vendors responded by simply removing the vulnerable feature from the phone rather than patch it.

Now it's not new, nearly no Android smartphone manufacturer can keep up with the fast updates that Google makes to its OS. And Android's fragmentation is a problem that remains unsolved.

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