Android Camera Vulnerability Exposed Smartphone Users to Spying and Recording

November 20, 2019 @ 11:50 AM
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2 min read

Security researchers discovered a flaw in an Android camera app that would let third parties surreptitiously upload audio and video recordings to an external server.

The issue, which was initially outlined in a blog post from cybersecurity firm Checkmarx, reportedly stems from an update to the Google Camera application that was made this past July on the Google Play store.

By setting up a proof-of-concept to show how dangerous the flaw could be, researchers said they were easily able to bypass the Android camera app’s security restriction that was specifically intended to prevent other apps from using it without permission.

A Close-Up on User Activity

Though it is not known whether threat actors have actively taken advantage of the flaw, researchers said the fact that it affected a wide range of devices means that hundreds of millions of smartphone users were potentially at risk.

Those who exploited the flaw would have been able to do more than simply record smartphone users without their knowledge, the researchers added. The vulnerability would also potentially give rogue actors the ability to look at content on a device and analyze its metadata. This could include figuring out the GPS location of where a video was taken, for example.

Google, which has the Android camera app on its Pixel devices, said in an email to publications like Business Insider that it issued a patch for the flaw after the researchers brought their findings to the firm’s attention. Samsung has also issued a similar patch to mitigate the risk for those using its Android devices.

Keeping Devices Updated Is Everyone’s Responsibility

This Android camera flaw is a good example of how everyday consumers need to be just as vigilant about staying on top of patches as businesses with a dedicated IT security team. After all, given that many of us keep our smartphones with us at all times, the threat of being recorded is particularly high.

For those that don’t use a Google Pixel or Samsung device, for example, Ars Technica published a command you can run to double-check if your smartphone might be affected by the vulnerability.

Of course, many people also use their smartphone at work, which means chief information security officers (CISOs) and their teams should adopt best practices like patch posture reporting to ensure critical updates don’t fall through the cracks.

Shane Schick
Writer & Editor
Shane Schick is a contributor for SecurityIntelligence.
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