Fix for critical Qualcomm chip flaw is making its way to Android devices

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Makers of high-end Android gadgets are responding to the invention of a Qualcomm chip flaw that researchers say could possibly be exploited to partially backdoor a few third of the world’s smartphones.

The vulnerability, found by researchers from safety agency Test Level Analysis, resides in Qualcomm’s Cell Station Modem, a system of chips that gives capabilities for issues like voice, SMS, and high-definition recording, totally on higher-end gadgets made by Google, Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, and OnePlus. Cellphone-makers can customise the chips so that they do further issues like deal with SIM unlock requests. The chips run in 31 p.c of the world’s smartphones, in keeping with figures from Counterpoint Analysis.

The heap overflow the researchers discovered could be exploited by a malicious app put in on the telephone, and from there the app can plant malicious code contained in the MSM, Test Level researchers stated in a blog post printed Thursday. The practically undetectable code may then be capable of faucet into a few of a telephone’s most important features.

“This implies an attacker may have used this vulnerability to inject malicious code into the modem from Android, giving them entry to the gadget consumer’s name historical past and SMS, in addition to the power to hearken to the gadget consumer’s conversations,” the researchers wrote. “A hacker can even exploit the vulnerability to unlock the gadget’s SIM, thereby overcoming the constraints imposed by service suppliers on it.”

Fixes take time

Test Level spokesman Ekram Ahmed instructed me that Qualcomm has launched a patch and disclosed the bug to all clients who use the chip. Due to the intricacies concerned, it’s not but clear which susceptible Android gadgets are mounted and which of them aren’t.

“From our expertise, the implementation of those fixes takes time, so a few of the telephones should still be liable to the menace,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Accordingly, we determined to not share all of the technical particulars, as it could give hackers a roadmap on orchestrate an exploitation.”

In a press release, Qualcomm officers wrote:

Offering applied sciences that assist strong safety and privateness is a precedence for Qualcomm. We commend the safety researchers from Test Level for utilizing industry-standard coordinated disclosure practices. Qualcomm Applied sciences has already made fixes obtainable to OEMs in December 2020, and we encourage finish customers to replace their gadgets as patches grow to be obtainable.

On background, a spokesman stated that the vulnerability may even be included within the public June Android bulletin. He advisable customers contact telephone producers to seek out out the standing of fixes for his or her gadget.

The vulnerability is tracked as CVE-2020-11292. Test Level found it through the use of a course of generally known as fuzzing, which uncovered the chip system to uncommon inputs in an try to seek out bugs within the firmware. Thursday’s analysis supplies a deep dive into the inside workings of the chip system and the final define they used to take advantage of the vulnerability.

The analysis is a reminder that telephones and different modern-day computing gadgets are literally a set of dozens if not a whole bunch of interconnected computing gadgets. Whereas efficiently infecting particular person chips usually requires nation-state-level hacking assets, the feat would permit an attacker to run malware that couldn’t be detected with out money and time.

“We consider this analysis to be a possible leap within the very fashionable space of cellular chip analysis,” Test Level researchers wrote. “Our hope is that our findings will pave the way in which for a a lot simpler inspection of the modem code by safety researchers, a process that’s notoriously laborious to do at the moment.”

Publish up to date so as to add remark from Qualcomm.

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