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Monday, 08 April 2019 09:08

Check Point finds hole in Xiaomi pre-installed security app

Check Point finds hole in Xiaomi pre-installed security app Courtesy Xiaomi

A vulnerability in Guard Provider, a pre-installed app on mobile devices made by Xiaomi, allowed unsecured network traffic in both directions and could have allowed a threat actor to connect to the same Wi-Fi network and carry out a man-in-the-middle attack, the security firm Check Point says.

In a blog post, Check Point researcher Slava Makkaveev said the attacker could then use a third-party SDK update to disable malware protections and inject any rogue data to steal data, implant ransomware or tracking code. Other malware could also be installed.

Guard Provider is available on all mainstream Xiaomi phones and uses several third-party software development kits as party of the security service it offers. There are three anti-virus brands from among which the user can use: Avast, AVL and Tencent.

Makkaveev said there were disadvantages in using several SDKs within the same app. "Because they all share the app context and permissions, a problem in one SDK would compromise the protection of all the others and the private storage data of one SDK cannot be isolated and can therefore be accessed by another SDK," he noted.

It was natural that users would trust preinstalled apps, especially when those apps were claimed to protect the device, Makkaveev said. But the case of Guard Provider raised the question of who was guarding the guardian.

"And although the guardian should not necessarily need guarding, clearly when it comes to how apps are developed, even those built in by the smartphone vendor, one cannot be too careful," he said.

This attack scenario also illustrated the dangers of using multiple SDKs in one app. "While minor bugs in each individual SDK can be often be a standalone issue, when multiple SDKs are implemented within the same app it is likely that even more critical vulnerabilities will not be far off," Makkaveev said.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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