Researchers at Google have discovered a new zero-day exploit in Android that has the potential to infect millions of devices. The vulnerability is located in the kernel of the OS and has already been used by bad actors in the wild. Here are the phones known to be affected, including models from Google, Samsung and Huawei.
Project Zero is a team of Google security analysts who specialise in finding zero-day vulnerabilities. As reported by TechRadar, the latest exploit discovered by Project Zero can be used to gain root access to targeted devices.
Google’s monthly Android security fixes are normally just for Google devices, but Samsung, Motorola, LG, Oppo, Huawei and Xiaomi are all rolling out their own versions of the October 2019 security update to patch a major zero-day security vulnerability present on several Android smartphones. Those with vulnerable phones should make sure they download the patch as soon as it’s available sometime in the next few days.
Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) has confirmed that the vulnerability has been used in real-world attacks. The Israel-based company NSO Group has been fingered as a possible culprit. (NSO has denied any involvement.)
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According to Project Zero, the bug is a local privilege escalation vulnerability that allows for a full compromise of a vulnerable device.
"This issue is rated as High severity on Android and by itself requires installation of a malicious application for potential exploitation," one researcher warned. "Any other vectors, such as via web browser, require chaining with an additional exploit."
Here are the smartphones known to be impacted by the vulnerability, following extensive testing by Google.
- Google Pixel 2
- Huawei P20
- Xiaomi Redmi 5A
- Xiaomi Redmi Note 5
- Xiaomi A1
- Oppo A3
- Moto Z3
- LG phones running Android Oreo
- Samsung Galaxy S7
- Samsung Galaxy S8
- Samsung Galaxy S9
However, it is feared more Android smartphones could be affected as the exploit requires little or no per-device customisation.
How to protect yourself
Device manufacturers have been alerted by Google so expect to see OS updates roll out soon. In the meantime, it's imperative to avoid downloads from dodgy sites or side-loaded apps from sources you're not sure about. The vulnerability requires the installation of a malicious application to take control of a device - so as long as you avoid the above scenarios, your phone should remain safe.
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