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    Archive for October 3rd, 2012

    Last week, it was reported that some Android devices could be wiped remotely if the user unwittingly clicked on a link. Since then, Samsung has announced that for the Galaxy S III the issue was already fixed in the last update and urged customers to update their devices accordingly.

    While the speed of Samsung’s response was commendable, what was left unsaid highlights the complicated environment of Android updates – and why it hurts the security of ordinary users.

    Simply put, it is very difficult to push updates for Android devices. Three parties are involved: Google, the phone manufacturer, and the carrier. In theory, the Android Update Alliance (an initiative of Google and its Android partners) is supposed to ensure that Android phones and tablets get updates for at least 18 months after they are introduced.

    The actual situation can vary wildly: some carriers and manufacturers, for example, are notorious for being slow to roll out updates. Other devices – particularly low-range devices – are neglected and rarely, if ever updated. “Fragmentation” is not just a problem for app developers; it could lead to serious security risks as well.

    Consider this issue at hand. This was two features (calling a phone number via the tel:// protocol, and the ability to wipe a phone via a USSD code) that collided in an unfortunate way. Looking at Android’s source code history, it was fixed at least three months ago by somebody working for Google. What about phones running older Android versions such as Gingerbread (Android 2.3)? It was last updated in September 2011, and yet accounts for more than half of all Android devices in use today. Some of them may not be vulnerable for other reasons (such as custom dialers), but many users are still at risk.

    The danger isn’t so much this particular vulnerability. There are other ways to mitigate it aside from an Android patch. (An aside: ignoring tel:// and other unusual protocols would have been a good way to secure users from this threat, and it would have been a perfectly sensible feature to include.)

    The real danger is when Android is hit by a widespread zero-day, execute-arbitrary-code vulnerability – similar to what hit Internet Explorer and Java in September. Users would then be left with two unpalatable alternatives: risk using a vulnerable device until it’s patched (if ever), or spend money on a new, secure device. Either way, it would be a disaster both for users and Android as a whole.

    Google needs to find a way to ensure that security updates can be delivered to as many Android devices as possible in a timely manner. It sounds like a simple task, but it isn’t: it would involve coordination with both carriers and device manufacturers. Serious re-engineering of Android itself may even be necessary. However, it’s something that is necessary: sooner or later, people will wish that it was easy to patch vulnerabilities in Android. Better that it’s done now, before there’s a significant threat – rather than in the middle of a security disaster for millions of users around the world.

    Posted in Mobile | 1 TrackBack »

    Code sign certificates assure users that any software is not maliciously altered. But what happens if a malicious program uses a legitimately issued certificate?

    Last week, Adobe released an advisory warning users of malicious utilities carrying legitimate Adobe certificates. According to the advisory, they are currently looking into certain utilities carrying legitimate Adobe-issued certificates. To immediately address this misuse, the software vendor is expected to revoke certificates on October 4 for all software code signed after July 10 2012.

    Trend Micro researchers were able to gather and analyze these utilities. Below are our corresponding detections:

    Based on our analysis, HTKL_PWDUMP extracts hash values from binary SAM and SYSTEM files in the file system, which may result to unauthorized Windows passwords retrieval, and is a well known tool. On the other hand, TROJ_AGENT.MGSM redirects traffic on a web server.

    Misused Certificates As Effective Social Engineering Tools

    The real risk of malware using valid certificates is that attackers may use this as a social engineering tactic. Given these are designed to assure users that programs are legitimate and not modified, users are likely to trust and execute malicious programs with such certificates. Misusing certificates was also found on certain targeted attacks. If you may recall, specific components of the notorious FLAME attack, which targeted Iran and other predetermined countries, were found using Microsoft-issued certificates.

    Adobe clarifies that this issue does not affect systems with genuine Adobe software and currently does not present a security risk to general consumers. However, a small number of users, in particular IT administrators, may need to perform certain corrective measures. To read more about Adobe’s course of action and advisory, you may refer to Adobe‘s blog entry.

    Trend Micro Smart Protection Network™ protects users from this threat by detecting and deleting these utilities.

    Posted in Malware | Comments Off on Trend Micro Detects Reported Malicious Utilities with Adobe Certificates


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