600 million Samsung phones vulnerable to hackers

A security flaw in the preloaded SwiftKey app has left over 600 million Samsung Galaxy smartphones vulnerable to hackers.

According to NowSecure, its mobile security researcher Ryan Welton uncovered the flaw and notified Samsung in December 2014. Due to the severity of the issue, the Google Android security team was also informed. If the flaw is exploited, the hacker can remotely:

- access sensors and resources like GPS, camera and microphone
- install malicious app(s) without the user knowing
- tamper with how other apps work or how the phone works
- eavesdrop on incoming/outgoing messages or voice calls
- attempt to access sensitive personal data like pictures and text messages

Apparently, Samsung has issued a patch to mobile network operators early this year. It remains unknown whether telcos have issued the patches to the affected Galaxy devices. As of 16th June, NowSecure states that the following Galaxy smartphones are affected:

- Galaxy S6
- Galaxy S5
- Galaxy S4
- Galaxy S4 Mini

It is noteworthy to mention that only the preloaded SwiftKey app has the security flaw while the one on the Google Play Store is safe. Unfortunately, users of these Galaxy models cannot uninstall the SwiftKey app. NowSecure recommends a few measures to limit the risks such as avoiding insecure Wi-Fi networks and using a different mobile device.

In response to this security flaw, Samsung has issued an official statement. It is rolling out security policy updates via Samsung Knox in a few days "to invalidate any potential vulnerabilities caused by this issue". The company is also working with SwiftKey to resolve any potential risks going forward. Below is its official statement in full:

"Samsung takes emerging security threats very seriously. We are aware of the recent issue reported by several media outlets and are committed to providing the latest in mobile security. Samsung Knox has the capability to update the security policy of the phones, over-the-air, to invalidate any potential vulnerabilities caused by this issue. The security policy updates will begin rolling out in a few days. In addition to the security policy update, we are also working with SwiftKey to address potential risks going forward."

Source: NowSecure via GSMArena, Android Central

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