Archive for October, 2012

HTC android phones – the prefect spying platform?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

I am reading “Systematic detection of capability leaks in stock Android smartphones” for the CL’s Mobile Security reading group.

I read “all the tested HTC phones export the RECORD AUDIO permission, which allows any untrusted app to specify which file to write recorded audio to without asking for the RECORD AUDIO permission.” and then went back and looked again at Table 3 and saw the other permissions that stock HTC android images export to all other applications: these include access location and camera permissions. The authors report that HTC was rather slow at responding to their telling HTC that they had a problem. Hence stock HTC Legend, EVO 4G and Wildfire S phones are a really nice target for installing spy software because it doesn’t have to ask for any permissions at all (can pretend to be a harmless game) and yet can record where you go[0] what you say and at least if your phone is not in your pocket also what you see.

This is probably more likely to be incompetence than a deliberate conspiracy but if they were trying to be evil it would look just like this.

On the plus side Google’s Nexus range with stock images are much safer and Google is rather better at responding promptly to security issues. Since my android phone is one that Google has given our research group for doing research I am fortunately safe.

I also particularly liked HTC’s addition of the FREEZE capability which locks you out of the phone until you remove the battery, just perfect for when the attacker realises you are on to them to allow them to do the last bit of being malicious without your being able to stop them.

End of being provocative. ;-)

[0] Ok so on Wildfire S location information is implicitly rather than explicitly exported so probably harder to get hold of.