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Quadrooter makes 900m Android devices vulnerable

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Mobile researchers from Check Point Software Technologies have announced four new vulnerabilities affecting over 900 million Android smartphones and tablets.

In his presentation at Def Con 24, Check Point lead mobile security researcher Adam Donenfeld revealed four major vulnerabilities affecting Android devices built using the Qualcomm chipsets. Qualcomm is the world’s leading designer of LTE chipsets, with a 65% share of the LTE modem baseband market in the Android ecosystem.

Check Point calls the set of vulnerabilities QuadRooter. If exploited, the vulnerabilities can give attackers complete control of devices and unrestricted access to sensitive personal and enterprise data on them. Access could also provide an attacker with capabilities such as keylogging, GPS tracking, and recording video and audio.

The vulnerabilities are found in the software drivers Qualcomm ships with its chipsets.  An attacker can exploit these vulnerabilities using a malicious app.  This app would require no special permissions to take advantage of the vulnerabilities, which means it would not make users suspicious.  The estimated 900 million affected devices include these models:

  • Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
  • Google Nexus 5X, 6 & 6P
  • HTC One M9 & HTC 10
  • LG G4, G5 & V10
  • Motorola Moto X
  • BlackBerry Priv

Since the vulnerable software drivers are pre-installed on devices at the point of manufacture, they can only be fixed by installing a patch from the device’s distributor or carrier.  Distributors and carriers issuing patches can only do so after receiving fixed driver packs from Qualcomm.

Check Point has released a free QuadRooter scanner app, available from Google Play, that enables Android users to find out if their device is vulnerable, and prompt them to download patches for the problem.  The link will be also available from http://blog.checkpoint.com/

Michael Shaulov, head of mobility product management for Check Point said:  “Vulnerabilities like QuadRooter bring into focus the unique challenge of securing Android devices, and the data they hold.  The supply chain is complex, which means every patch must be added to and tested on Android builds for each unique device model affected by the flaws.  This process can take months, leaving devices vulnerable in the interim, and users are often not made aware of the risks to their data. The Android security update process is broken and needs to be fixed.”

Check Point recommends the following best practices to help keep Android devices safe from attacks that try to exploit any vulnerabilities:

·       Download and install the latest Android updates as soon as they become available.

·       Understand the risks of rooting devices – either intentionally or from an attack

·       Avoid side-loading Android apps (.APK files) or downloading apps from third-party sources. Instead, download apps only from Google Play.

·       Read permission requests carefully when installing any apps. Be wary of apps that ask for permissions that seem unusual or unnecessary, or use large amounts of data or battery life.

·       Use known, trusted Wi-Fi networks or while traveling use only those that you can verify are provided by a trustworthy source.

·       End users and enterprises should consider using mobile security solutions designed to detect suspicious behaviour on a device, including malware that could be obfuscated within installed apps.

Check Point researchers provided Qualcomm with information about the vulnerabilities in April 2016. The team then followed the industry-standard disclosure policy (CERT/CC policy) of allowing 90 days for Qualcomm to produce patches before disclosing the vulnerabilities.   Qualcomm reviewed these vulnerabilities, classified each as high risk, and has since released patches to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

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Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds

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Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/08/22/in-emerging-economies-smartphone-and-social-media-users-have-broader-social-networks.

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Nokia to be first with Android 10

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Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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