Newer, stronger security core for Google's Android N

This summer, expect automatic updates, file-based encryption and mediaserver hardening

Speaking at the Google I/O developer conference on Thursday, Adrian Ludwig, head of the Android security team at Google, noted three key security features planned for Android N, the new Android version expected to debut this fall: file-based encryption, Mediaserver hardening, and automatic updates.

Android N devices can also install system updates in the background. So the next time a user powers up a device, it can automatically switch into the new updated system image.

With Mediaserver hardening, Google wants to stop bugs from becoming vulnerabilities by deprivileging and isolating components handling untrusted content. The company has had to fix vulnerabilities in Mediaserver, which is used to process media files. With Android N, the Android media team rearchitected Mediaserver to better adhere to the principle of least privilege, according to Google's security team.

Google's security efforts of late have focused on runtime permissions, direct boot, key store authentication, storage encryption, and sandboxing, Ludwig said. With Android Marshmallow, permissions are requested at runtime, and users can control individual permissions. "One of the things I worry about is making sure that users understand what it is that's going on. We found that runtime permissions are fundamentally more understandable for users," Ludwig said.

Android Marshmallow introduced key attestation, to validate the legitimacy of hardware running the software. The company also recommends use of HTTPS to protect apps. Verified boot, to assure the integrity of device software from hardware root of trust to partition, also has been required since Android Marshmallow on capable devices.

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Paul Krill

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