New Stagefright exploit puts millions of Android devices at risk

Researchers continue to find problems in Android's multimedia library

Millions of Android devices are at risk yet again after researchers found a new way to exploit an older vulnerability that was previously patched by Google.

NorthBit, based in Herzliya, Israel, published a paper outlining Metaphor, a nickname for a new weakness they found in Stagefright, Android's mediaserver and multimedia library.

The attack is effective against devices running Android versions 2.2 through 4.0 and 5.0 and 5.1, NorthBit said.

The company said its attack works best on Google's Nexus 5 with stock ROM, and with some modifications for HTC's One, LG's G3 and Samsung's S5.

The attack is an extension of other ones developed for CVE-2015-3864, a remote code execution vulnerability which has been patched twice by Google.

The security company Zimperium found the original Stagefright flaws in early 2015, which affected millions of devices. Google has since had to repeatedly issue patches and fixes for problems in Stagefright that researchers continue to find.

Zuk Avraham, CTO and founder of Zimperium, said via email his company withheld publishing a second exploit it developed for Stagefright due to the risk it posed and the large number of devices that could still be affected.

But NorthBit's research paper "provides enough details for professional hacking groups to complete a fully working and reliable exploit," he said.

NorthBit published a video of a successful attack, which requires a bit of social engineering. The victim has to be tricked into clicking on a link and then staying on that Web page for some time while the exploit runs. It can take between a few seconds to up to two minutes for the exploit to finish its work.

In the video, the victim, who is using a Nexus 6, opens a link leading to cat photos, while NorthBit shows the exploit churning away.

On Android versions 5.0 and 5.1, the exploit will bypass ASLR (address space layout randomization), a defense intended to make exploitation more difficult.

NorthBit estimated about 235,000,000 Android devices run versions 5.0 and 5.1, and about 40,000,000 devices run some 2.x version of Android without ASLR.

"Looking at these numbers, it's hard to comprehend how many devices are potentially vulnerable," NorthBit wrote.

Partly in response to danger posed by Stagefright, Google said in August it would move to a monthly patching schedule and work closer with major Android vendors to ensure more prompt patching.

Google will likely quickly issue a patch, wrote Chris Eng, vice president of research with Veracode, in an email. But the distribution of Stagefright patches has been spotty.

"Patching application vulnerabilities is especially challenging for the Android community with the number of different manufactures and carriers charged with the responsibility of issuing patches to devices," Eng said.

Google could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Steve Ragan of CSO contributed to this report.)

Join the newsletter!

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

Tags securityStagefright

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

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

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

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

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

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?