August has been an eventful month for mobile security. We saw product launches, new threats and some snippets providing insight into upcoming trends. Here is a roundup of the top five headlines from last month.
Apple Cuts Down Trident Exploits With Security Update
This news made headlines all across the world. Although most publications spun a negative side of this story, I prefer to see the glass half-full.
So what happened here? Miscreants were trying to jailbreak devices through a malicious link delivered through a text message. But this attack was aimed at delivering a notorious spyware, Pegasus, which has been used for high-level corporate espionage.
This attack was three-pronged, thus the new name Trident. Infosecurity Magazine noted that it delivered the spyware through three different routes:
- A kernel base mapping vulnerability that leaks info, revealing the kernel’s location in memory;
- A kernel-level flaw enabling an attacker to install spyware on the device; and
- A Safari Webkit bug that encourages a user to click on a link that would allow an attacker to compromise the device.
What makes this malware so dangerous that Apple patched it within 10 days of being notified? The malware allows a remote attacker to monitor emails, texts, location, browsing history, device settings, phone calls, calendar records and anything else a victim may do on the device.
Twitter-Controlled Android Botnet
In August, a new Android botnet, known as Twitoor to some, used Twitter to infect devices instead of a traditional server.
The botnet is delivered through a malicious link in a message. It receives commands from the targeted Twitter account, enabling it to steal information and install additional malware. If the Twitter account is reported and blocked, the botnet is smart enough to simply switch to another Twitter account, thus making it very difficult to trace.
This is a significant development since cybercriminals can be expected to leverage this method in the future to compromise devices through other social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and SnapChat.
Samsung Launches Galaxy Note 7: A New Era of Mobile Security
This launch from Samsung was significant because it introduced new device-level security features for the first time: Mobile devices can now scan users’ eyes to grant access. While they are not yet capable of retina scans, iris scans are the next best thing. Samsung is taking security to the next level. Now it is up to Apple to respond with its September launch.
Quadrooter Strikes: Over 1 Billion Android Devices Vulnerable
Security researchers uncovered Quadrooter, a set of vulnerabilities that affect Android devices running Qualcomm chipsets, in August. The attack is carried out through software that talks to the chipset and the OS. By exploiting these, the attacker can gain access to the device and steal data and communication that goes through it. The only fix is a security patch that the service providers can send to affected customers.
Google Password Fill
Google constantly strives to improve security on its Android devices. To help in that effort, the company developed something similar to single sign-on, called YOLO, or You Only Log in Once. It launched a password security open source API with the hopes that the industry’s top security companies can contribute to developing this further.
By doing so, Google aimed to eliminate the threat that attackers use to lock down controls behind security PIN screens. This is something to look forward to with next flavor of Android 7.0 Nougat.