Hackers Might be Monitoring Millions of Android Devices

  • By Patrick Ryan
  • Apr 27, 2022

Check Point, cyber security specialists based in Israel, reports flawed chipset bugs in Android smartphones have created an opportunity for digital criminals to perform comprehensive spying. In particular, three specific security bugs have been identified in Android phones.

What, Exactly, are the Bugs, and How are They Used?

Audio decoders within Android smartphone chips made by MediaTek and Qualcomm present an opportunity for adversaries to access the devices remotely. If the chipset bugs are not resolved, there is the potential that digital miscreants will illegally use those weaknesses to access smartphone users’ audio conversations and digital media stored on the phones.  

Check Point’s digital security team points out that these vulnerabilities also have the potential to be used as a launchpad to perform RCE attacks. RCE is an acronym short for remote code execution. A hacker simply needs to transmit a specialized audio file to the targeted Android smartphone with the unresolved vulnerability, and they will obtain remote access.

Which Chipsets are Vulnerable?

Chipsets made by Qualcomm and MediaTek are used in Android smartphones and are vulnerable. The weaknesses pertain to the ALAC code as referenced below. The MediaTek vulnerability is referred to as CVE-2021-0674 and has a CVSS score of 5.5. This flaw has an insufficient input validation within the ALAC decoder that permits the disclosure of information without users taking any action.  

Another MediaTek chipset vulnerability is CVE-2021-0675, with a 7.8 CVSS score. This second vulnerability includes a privilege escalation weakness in the ALAC decoder resulting from a write that is considered out-of-bounds. Finally, the Qualcomm chipset bug, referred to as CVE-2021-30351, has a CVSS score of 9.8. The Qualcomm chipset bug has out-of-bounds memory access resulting from the failure to validate frames passed amidst music playing.

Why are RCE Vulnerabilities a Problem?

RCE vulnerabilities are especially problematic in the context of digital security as they set the stage for hackers to execute malware or empower digital miscreants to obtain control over a target’s multimedia data. It is even possible for hackers to take advantage of an RCE vulnerability to stream from the targeted Android smartphone’s internal camera. Especially creative digital criminals will take advantage of the weakness to heighten privileges for unprivileged apps, ultimately allowing access to text message conversations and media data.

Have Digital Security Specialists Named the Chipset Bugs?

The digital security specialists studying the vulnerabilities refer to the chipset bugs “ALHACK” in reference to Apple Lossless Audio Codec. The weaknesses are based on a format for audio coding first developed and open-sourced through Apple a decade ago. Also known as Apple Lossless, this audio coding format serves the purpose of compressing lossless information relating to digital music files.

Third-party vendors, including the likes of MediaTek, are now using the tech giant’s audio codec for decoding audio. Apple deserves to be commended for updating its audio codec with regular patching. Apple also proactively addressed digital security shortcomings in the decoder to prevent identity theft. However, the codec was open-sourced, meaning it was available for upgrades by the coding community, meaning it has been tinkered with yet not updated since shifting to Github.

What Actions Have the Chipset Makers Taken?

Both Qualcomm and MediaTek have closed the vulnerabilities. The bugs were addressed in the final month of 2021 after Check Point’s testing revealed the vulnerabilities that empowered hackers to take control of Android phones’ cameras and other capabilities with surprising ease. However, Android smartphone users with devices made before 2021 might still be vulnerable if the bugs in their chips have not been resolved.

About the Author
IDStrong Logo

Related Articles

Instagram Vulnerability Allowed Hackers Access to Control Your Phone

Security experts Check Point Research discovered a critical vulnerability while examining Instagra ... Read More

Alien Malware Infects More than 226 Mobile Apps and Steals Bank Data

As reported on September 24, 2020, by ZDNet and ThreatPost, a new strain of malware named “Alien ... Read More

Universal Health Systems Hit by Ransomware Attack

Universal Health Systems (UHS), a Fortune 500 company owning more than 400 hospitals across the co ... Read More

Exchange Server Bug Exposes a Big Risk to Hackers

Months after Microsoft released a patch to fix a serious flaw in MS Exchange Server, more than 61% ... Read More

Clients’ Bank Data Exposed in Blackbaud Ransomware Attack

Blackbaud software was victim to a ransomware attack last May, and new information suggests that c ... Read More

Latest Articles

Flagstar Bank Breach Impacts More Than a Million Customers

Flagstar Bank Breach Impacts More Than a Million Customers

Flagstar Bank is in the news for the wrong reason. The bank recently publicized the fact that it discovered a digital breach.

Weekly Recap June 24 2022

Weekly Recap June 24 2022

We are nearly halfway through 2022. News stories detailing hacks and other digital breaches continue to roll in on a daily basis.

Cybercrime Related to Travel Soars at the Year’s Halfway Point

Cybercrime Related to Travel Soars at the Year’s Halfway Point

There has been a significant spike in tourism following the gradual decline of the coronavirus pandemic.  The increase in travel has caught the attention of digital miscreants looking to scam tourists as well as travel services providers.

Featured Articles

How to Buy a House with Bad Credit

How to Buy a House with Bad Credit

Buying your own home is the American Dream, but it might seem out of reach to those with bad credit. However, the good news is, if your credit is less than perfect, you do still have options and in most cases, can still buy a home.

How Secure Is Your Password? Tips to Improve Your Password Security

How Secure Is Your Password? Tips to Improve Your Password Security

Any good IT article on computers and network security will address the importance of strong, secure passwords. However, the challenge of good passwords is that most people have a hard time remembering them, so they use simple or obvious ones that pose a security risk.

Top 10 Senior Scams and How to Prevent Them

Top 10 Senior Scams and How to Prevent Them

Senior scams are becoming a major epidemic for two reasons. First, seniors often have a lot of money in the bank from a life of working hard and saving.