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Massive Security Vulnerability Found In HTC Android Devices

“In recent updates to some of its devices, HTC introduces a suite of logging tools that collected information. Lots of information. LOTS. Whatever the reason was, whether for better understanding problems on users’ devices, easier remote analysis, corporate evilness – it doesn’t matter. If you, as a company, plant these information collectors on a device, you better be DAMN sure the information they collect is secured and only available to privileged services or the user, after opting in.

That is not the case. What Trevor found is only the tip of the iceberg – we are all still digging deeper – but currently any app on affected devices that requests a single android.permission.INTERNET (which is normal for any app that connects to the web or shows ads) can get its hands on:

  • the list of user accounts, including email addresses and sync status for each
  • last known network and GPS locations and a limited previous history of locations
  • phone numbers from the phone log
  • SMS data, including phone numbers and encoded text (not sure yet if it’s possible to decode it, but very likely)
  • system logs (both kernel/dmesg and app/logcat), which includes everything your running apps do and is likely to include email addresses, phone numbers, and other private info

Normally, applications get access to only what is allowed by the permissions they request, so when you install a simple, innocent-looking new game from the Market that only asks for the INTERNET permission (to submit scores online, for example), you don’t expect it to read your phone log or list of emails.

But that’s not all. After looking at the huge amount of data (the log file was 3.5MB on my EVO 3D) that is vulnerable to apps exploiting this vulnerability all day, I found the following is also exposed (granted, some of which may be already available to any app via the Android APIs):

  • active notifications in the notification bar, including notification text
  • build number, bootloader version, radio version, kernel version
  • network info, including IP addresses
  • full memory info
  • CPU info
  • file system info and free space on each partition
  • running processes
  • current snapshot/stacktrace of not only every running process but every running thread
  • list of installed apps, including permissions used, user ids, versions, and more
  • system properties/variables
  • currently active broadcast listeners and history of past broadcasts received
  • currently active content providers
  • battery info and status, including charging/wake lock history
  • and more

Let me put it another way. By using only the INTERNET permission, any app can also gain at least the following:

ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION Allows an application to access coarse (e.g., Cell-ID, WiFi) location
ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION Allows an application to access fine (e.g., GPS) location
ACCESS_LOCATION_EXTRA_COMMANDS Allows an application to access extra location provider commands
ACCESS_WIFI_STATE Allows applications to access information about Wi-Fi networks
BATTERY_STATS Allows an application to collect battery statistics
DUMP Allows an application to retrieve state dump information from system services.
GET_ACCOUNTS Allows access to the list of accounts in the Accounts Service
GET_PACKAGE_SIZE Allows an application to find out the space used by any package.
GET_TASKS Allows an application to get information about the currently or recently running tasks: a thumbnail representation of the tasks, what activities are running in it, etc.
READ_LOGS Allows an application to read the low-level system log files.
READ_SYNC_SETTINGS Allows applications to read the sync settings
READ_SYNC_STATS Allows applications to read the sync stats

 

 

Update (4th Oct 2011): HTC Confirms Flaw, Promises Patch

 

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