Samsung users are at risk for vulnerabilities in the pre-installed keyboard in these phones, says security firm NowSecure.com.
The in-built keyboard that has been developed by Swiftkey affects over 600 million Samsung devices, says NowSecure and the flaw was mobile security researcher Ryan Welton who works for the company.
NowSecure said that Samsung was notified in December 2014 of the flaw and that they also informed CERT (Computer Emergency Response Teams) who assigned CVE-2015-2865, and also informed the Google Android security team.
According to NowSecure’s blogspot, the flaw allows an attack to remotely access:
1) Access sensors and resources like GPS, camera and microphone
2) Secretly install malicious app(s) without the user knowing
3) Tamper with how other apps work or how the phone works
4) Eavesdrop on incoming/outgoing messages or voice calls
5) Attempt to access sensitive personal data like pictures and text messages
According to technical details of this vulnerability, “the attack vector for this requires an attacker capable of modifying upstream traffic. The vulnerability is triggered automatically (no human interaction) on reboot as well as randomly when the application decides to update.”
It should be noted that Samsung had been providing mobile operators with a patch for this fix in early 2015 although whether carriers have provided the patch to the devices is not yet clear.
SwiftKey has also responded to the alerts and in a statement said that “the SwiftKey Keyboard apps available via Google Play or the Apple App Store are not affected by this vulnerability.” In a statement, the UK-based company said this vulnerability is unrelated to and does not affect our SwiftKey consumer apps on Google Play and the Apple App Store.
“We supply Samsung with the core technology that powers the word predictions in their keyboard. It appears that the way this technology was integrated on Samsung devices introduced the security vulnerability. We are doing everything we can to support our long-time partner Samsung in their efforts to resolve this important security issue.
The vulnerability in question is not easy to exploit: a user must be connected to a compromised network (such as a spoofed public Wi-Fi network), where a hacker with the right tools has specifically intended to gain access to their device. This access is then only possible if the user’s keyboard is conducting a language update at that specific time, while connected to the compromised network,” the statement said.
NowSecure says that in order to avoid risk of a possible attack, users should avoid insecure or unknown WiFi networks.