In December 2014, security firm NowSecure uncovered a bug in Samsung’s default mobile keyboard app, Swiftkey, which put more than 600 million devices at risk. According to Business Insider, while a patch was rolled out in the early months of 2015, the new code required carriers to ensure installation and delivery, and recent testing found the vulnerability is still present on many devices. As a result, NowSecure went public, and Samsung has promised to “roll out a security policy update in the coming days.” That’s cold comfort for many Galaxy users, who are left wondering if their favorite device is suddenly a ticking malware time bomb. Fortunately, users aren’t entirely at the mobile company’s mercy.

Watch Your Language

So what’s the big risk with Swiftkey, anyway? It ends up being a bit of a double whammy, actually: This app is the default keyboard for almost all Samsung mobile devices, and as a result it has system-level access to all functions. New keyboard language updates are not encrypted, however, since they’re delivered using HTTP rather than HTTPS. This makes it possible for attackers to hijack the code, insert some of their own and then deliver the altered package to unsuspecting users. As noted by Trend Micro, this could result in attackers taking “complete control” of Samsung devices because the malicious code is essentially given free run of the device and loaded every time the OS boots up.

For its part, Samsung says that “the likelihood of making a successful attack exploiting this vulnerability is low,” further claiming that “there have been no reported customer cases of Galaxy devices being compromised.” Understandably, users are skeptical of these assurances since they’re the ones who could end up with costly paperweights instead of smartphones if attackers decide to start leveraging this vulnerability.

Solving the Swiftkey Problem

If users don’t want to wait for Samsung’s eventual Knox security fix, they have two options: change their network usage or opt for a different keyboard. First is changing the network. If users opt for secure Wi-Fi connections or VPNs over public connections, they can virtually eliminate the possibility of an attacker grabbing and altering the unencrypted Swiftkey data. The other choice is downloading another keyboard app to replace the Samsung default. It’s not enough to simply enable this app, however; users must also “Force Stop” Swiftkey every time they turn on their device by using the “Applications” portion of the settings menu. Unfortunately, just deleting the app isn’t a possibility since Samsung makes it part of the core software shipped with all new devices.

Samsung has promised a fix for its vulnerable built-in keyboard, but there’s no timeline on this patch. For Galaxy users looking to take control rather than wait on an update, there are options: Surf secure online or shelve the default keyboard in favor of a new app.

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