Vulnerability found in Samsung smartphone keyboard

Flaw affects keyboards on 600 million devices

A critical vulnerability is affecting 600 million Samsung devices including the company’s new flagship device, the S6.

The issue lies with an app called SwiftKey keyboard, a third party keyboard application that Samsung pre-installed on its S6, S6 Edge and S5. The app can not be disabled or uninstalled.

Researchers at mobile security company, NowSecure, have found the serious vulnerability, which allows attackers to remotely access functions such as GPS, camera and microphone.

According to NowSecure, cyber criminals exploiting the vulnerability are also able to secretly install malicious apps; eavesdrop on incoming and outgoing messages or voice calls; and access pictures and text messages on vulnerable devices.

NowSecure researcher, Ryan Welton, said the application runs from a privileged account on Samsung devices. Welton detailed in a blog post how the flaw can be exploited if an attacker can control or compromise the network that the device is connected to, such as a wireless hotspot or local network.

Welton wrote that the keyboard can be exploited even if it is not run as default on vulnerable devices.

The flaw was first disclosed at Black Hat London on Tuesday June 16. Welton said the firm alerted Samsung to the issue in November 2014 and that, at the end of March of 2015, Samsung reported a patch released to mobile carriers for Android 4.2 and newer, but requested an additional three months deferral for public disclosure. Google’s Android security team was alerted in December 2014.

“While Samsung began providing a patch to mobile network operators in early 2015, it is unknown if the carriers have provided the patch to the devices on their network,” Welton said.

The Federal Government's StaySmartOnline service issued an alert to Australians on June 19. It said Samsung had advised it would be rolling out a security policy update "in the coming days".

Samsung responded in a statement to the issue saying all ‘flagship’ models since the Galaxy S4 had the KNOX security platform installed, which could update the security policies automatically.

The security update is pushed to the user, who must then agree to receive it, the company said.

“To ensure your device receives the latest security updates, go to Settings > Lock Screen and Security > Other Security Settings > Security policy updates, and make sure the Automatic Updates option is activated.”

“At the same screen, the user may also click Check for updates to manually retrieve any new security policy updates.”

For devices that don’t have the security platform, Samsung said it was working on a firmware update that would be available when testing and approvals were completed.

StaySmartOnline recommends users do not connect their Samsung phone to any networks that may not be secured, including free wireless hotspots.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags SecureNowcritical vulnerabilitysamsungsecuritymobile securitymalwarecyber threat

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Chris Player
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?