A new Android hack was discovered by Joshua Drake, vice president of Platform Research and Exploitation at Zimperium Mobile Labs. Nicknamed “Stagefright,” this nasty bug makes smartphones that run on the Android mobile operating system vulnerable by way of a text message. And the worse news is that Drake and his fellow researchers are claiming that up to 95 percent of all Android run mobile devices are vulnerable.
How exactly does Stagefright work? For starters, hackers send a sneakily altered video message that is capable of getting around Android’s protective measures. This message then proceeds to activating a remote code, gaining full access to a user’s mobile device, including its internal memory, its cameras, microphones, and just about everything else. The reason the hack is being referred to as Stagefright is because it is also the same name being used for the media library that Android utilizes in processing videos. This is the specific area in which the hacking essentially takes place.
What is more frightening is that Stagefright starts attacking the Android device even if the user does not open the message. The fact that the message is received by the device is already enough for the remote code to gain unauthorized access.
And if that is not scary enough, hackers could then delete the malicious message as soon as they are finished accessing the user’s device. This means that they could do the hacking secretly without the user ever knowing what really happened -- except maybe for a notification that will likely be deemed insignificant by the user.
Zimperium researchers have determined that the hack may have been first introduced via the launch of Android version 2.2 (Froyo). According to them, the bug has been detected in more recent Android builds, including the latest existing version, Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. Moreover, they think the most vulnerable users are those that own devices powered by Android Jelly Bean (version 4.1) or earlier versions.
The next important question is -- how can this be fixed? Google can be counted on to have a patch ready in no time, but phone makers are ultimately the ones tasked to roll out the fix to their own devices. The problem is that the roll out could take some time, which could hurt mobile users, especially those who have not gotten around to updating their old Android powered mobile devices. As for users who still own devices that run on Android Froyo, Gingerbread, or Ice Cream Sandwich, it is quite possible that they will not get any fix at all.
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