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Security Vulnerability on your Android Phone: Opens Door to Privilege Escalation Attack

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It is time to update your Android device, with the newly released Android patch provided in the last week of October 2019. It is during the same time when the vulnerability of Whatsapp was announced in September/October 2019, that the Android OS was also found vulnerable. Even Google though it had patched this  ‘Privilege Escalation Attack Vulnerability’ about two years ago. In the second week of October 2019, Google has also admitted that some Android smartphones have recently become vulnerable to a serious zero-day, and efforts were initiated to patch the same at the earliest.

The Privilege Escalation Attack vulnerability is not new among other OSs, but the possibility of Android OS being susceptible was very low. However, the fact that researchers had reported the possibility in Android and Linux OS back in March 2019, did not prompt Google to provide a patch earlier.

What is Privilege Escalation? In the lines of code that is written in designing an Operating System or an Application; the coder provides for Rights and Access to functionalities and executions. This is based on the Privilege granted to that section of code or utility.  The vulnerability in Privilege escalation happens when a malicious user of an account or application gains access to the privileges of another user account in the target system.

What is the harm if there is Vulnerability in Privilege Escalation Model? A Person, who knows manipulations of codes, can now identify the gaps and then become a intruder from being a normal user to an Admin/SuperAdmin and then use the Target Device for Malicious actions.

What after the Privilege is Escalated on the Target Device? The attacker can then use the newly gained privileges to steal confidential data, run administrative commands or deploy malware – and potentially do serious damage to your operating system, android applications, and so on.

Privilege Escalation Attack in Android: A privilege escalation attack on Android Smartphones, is a type of 3G/4G based intrusion that takes advantage of programming errors or design flaws to grant the attacker elevated access to the Smartphone through the GSM/CDMA network and its associated data and applications on the device.

Symantec Inc has also listed the said vulnerability on 02 October 2019, as “Google Android Binder CVE-2019-2215 Local Privilege Escalation Vulnerability”. Further the Technologies Affected are: Google Android 10.0, Google Android 9.0 and Google Pixel 2. This vulnerability has been accepted by Google and has identified the flaw as “Kernel privilege escalation using a use-after-free vulnerability, accessible from inside the Chrome sandbox.

The affected Models of Smartphone are listed below (But not restricted to…):

  • Google – Pixel 1, Pixel 1 XL, Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL
  • Samsung – S7, S8, S9 (or older)
  • Xiaomi – Redmi 5A, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5, Xiaomi A1 (or older)
  • Huawei – P20 (or older)
  • Oppo – A3 (or older)
  • Motorola – Moto Z3 (or older)
  • LG – Oreo LG phones (or older)

Advisory: For most users the update would have been shipped or may have been pushed to the device by the service provider, however users can also update manual by clicking on the “Security Update” link on the “Settings” menu of the Smartphone. If the same is not manageable, it is suggested to visit the nearest Brand Service Center and load the patch as provided by the Company.

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