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Wednesday, 05 October 2016 08:53

BadKernel affects one in every 16 Android devices – 100m+ affected Featured

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A newly discovered zero-day vulnerability in Google’s Chromium mobile browser dubbed BadKernel allows hackers to gain control of a user’s Android smartphone.

Trustlook has published its findings, and they are not pretty. A massive number of smartphone makers either use Chromium’s V8 engine for their Web browser or install Chrome as the default. So by market share and using Chromium-based browsers alone Samsung, LG, Huawei, Sony and Motorola are most affected.

The exploits include access to SMS, contacts, location, camera and microphone, credit card wallets and passwords. It specifically targets Messages, Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter.

"Since many phones are not using the most current browser software, I expect this zero-day attack will be used widely by hackers," said Allan Zhang, chief executive and co-founder of Trustlook. "Users should run a quick scan of their phone and update their browser if they are affected."

In Australia, Trustlook has identified 8.26% of sampled devices are infected. iTWire has tried to verify Trustlook’s claims, and they appear legitimate – the sky is falling although we are not sure how widespread it is.

Chromium V8 JavaScript engine versions 3.2 to 4.2 are widely used in most Android built-in Web browsers. The same engine also underpins Chrome and Opera browsers, as well as apps that call it e.g. Tencent X5 SDK used in WeChat

Hackers primarily use socially engineered emails and SMS to encourage users to click on a link. The device continues to operate without visible signs of infection.

The vulnerability can be identified by Trustlook’s app on Google Play.

The cure is being rolled out by manufacturers but given Android's fragmentation and the number of older versions in use, it is unlikely to be useful except for late-model smartphones. Until then extreme care is advised for older handsets – don’t follow links in emails and SMS.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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