It looks like the consumerization of warfare is unstoppable and getting more and more mobile. After our first post of Jume the 16th, today I stumbled upon a couple of articles indicating the growing military interest for consumer technologies.
Network World reports that the National Security Agency is evaluating the use of COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) products for military purposes and is evaluating several different commercially available smartphones and tablets, properly hardened and secured. The final goal is to have four main devices, plus a couple of infrastructure support services. Meanwhile, trying to anticipate the NSA certification process, U.S. Marines are willing to verify the benefits of a military use of smartphones and consequently issued a Request For Information for trusted handheld platforms.
In both cases, the new technologies (smartphones and tablets) are preferred since they are able to provide, in small size and weight, the capability to rapidly access information in different domains (e.g., internet, intranet, secret), geolocation capabilities which are useful in situation awareness contexts, and , last but not least, the capability to connect with different media (eg, personal area network [PAN], wireless local area network [LAN], wide area network [WAN]).
Nevertheless, in a certain manner, the two approaches, albeit aiming to the same objective, are slightly different. NSA is evaluating the possibility to harden COTS in order to make them suitable for a military use, but since this process of hardening, certification and accreditation may take up to a couple of years, which is typically the life cycle of a commercial smartphone or tablet (it sounds quite optimistic since one year is an eternity for this kind of devices), the RFI issued by the Marines Corps is soliciting for system architectures and business partnerships that facilitate low-cost and high-assurance handhelds, where high-assurance means at least meeting the common criteria for evaluated assurance level (EAL) of 5+ or above. From this point of view the Marines’ approach seems closer to (and hence follows) the approach faced by the U.S. Army which is already testing iPhones, Android devices and tablets for us in war (a total of 85 apps, whose development took about $4.2 million, we could nearly speak about a Military iTunes or Military Android Market!).
But the adoption of consumer technologies does not stop here and will probably soon involve also the use of technologies closely resembling the Cloud. As a matter of fact, the NSA plans to develop in the near future a secure mobile capability, referred to as the “Mobile Virtual Network Operator,”, which will be be able to establish a way to provide sensitive content to the military and intelligence “in a way that roughly emulates what Amazon does with Kindle”, as stated by said Debora Plunkett, director of the NSA’s information assurance directorate, speaking at the Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit 2011 (but the NSA will not be the first to pilot this kind of technology since the NATO is already adopting Cloud Computing).
Probably this is only one side of the coin, I’m willing to bet that the consumerization of warfare will soon “infect” armies belonging to different countries and consequently the next step will be the development of weapons (read mobile military malware) targeted to damage the normal behavior of the military smartphones and tablets. On the other hand the Pentagon has developed a list of cyber-weapons, including malware, that can sabotage an adversary’s critical networks, so it is likely that these kind of weapons will soon affect mobile devices…
- NSA wants bulletproof smartphone, tablet security (infoworld.com)
- Consumerization of Warfare (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
- NSA Reveals Cloud Plans, May Open-Source Some of Its Software (readwriteweb.com)
The last malware inside the Android Market, dubbed Plankton, has been discovered by the same team which discovered DroidKungFu led by Xuxian Jiang, Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University. Although the brand new malware does not root the device, it has the bad habit to hide itself inside familiar apps related to the popular game Angry Birds. The suspected apps were removed on 6/5/2011, but since the malware leverages a new evasion technique which allowed it to stay in the market for more than 2 months without being detected by current mobile anti-malware software, but being downloaed more than 100.000 times.
Plankton is included in host apps by adding a background service: when the infected app runs, it will bring up the background service which collects information, including the device ID as well as the list of granted permissions to the infected app, and send them back to a remote server discovered by Sophos to be hosted in the Amazon Cloud.
The server replies with a URL that is used to download an additional JAR file with custom code that is loaded by the downloader.
Once the JAR file is downloaded, Plankton uses a technique for loading additional code from non-Market websites demonstrated by Jon Oberheide about a year ago, providing a potential attacker with a method of circumventing checks of application functionality by Google or by another Android Market provider.
The downloaded code launches another connection to the Command server and listens for commands to execute.
Although this malware does not root the phone, its approach of loading additional code does not allow security software on Android to inspect the downloaded file in the usual “on-access” fashion, but only through scheduled and “on-demand” scans. This is the reason why the malware was not discovered before.
As a consequence the pressure on Google is building on two fronts: on one side, users are demanding better security and on the other side security vendors are asking for better operating system interfaces to make security software more effective against the ever-increasing tide of Android malware.
- Plankton malware drifts into Android Market (nakedsecurity.sophos.com)
Not even a week after the light version of DroidDream, a new nightmare rises from the Android Market to menace the dreams of glory of the Google Mobile OS (which has just confirmed his #1 Rank on the comScore April 2011 U.S. Mobile Subscriber Market Share Report).
Curiously, also the new malware, discovered by F-Secure, and dubbed Android/DroidKungFu.A, “has its roots” on DroidDream since it uses the same exploit, rageagainstthecage, to gain root privilege and install the main malware component.
Once installed, the malware has backdoor capabilities and is able to: execute command to delete a supplied file, execute a command to open a supplied homepage, download and install a supplied APK, open a supplied URL, run or start a supplied application package.
Of course, who is familiar with Android malware may easily imagine the next step of the infection: the malware is in fact capable to obtain some information concerning the device and send them to a remote server: The collected information include: IMEI number, Build version release, SDK version, users’ mobile number, Phone model, Network Operator, Type of Net Connectivity, SD card available memory, Phone available memory.
In few words, the device is turned into a member of a botnet (without realizing it we are closer and closer to Phase 4 of Mobile Malware, consult slide 9 of my presentation for the different phases of Mobile Malware).
Guess where the malware was detected first? Of course from some parallel Markets in China, at least according to some Researchers of the North Carolina University who detected two infected applications in more than eight third-party Android app stores and forums based in China. Nothing new under this sun of June. Luckily the researchers haven’t found infected apps in non-Chinese app stores… At least so far.
As previously stated DroidKungFu takes advantages of the same vulnerabilities than DroidDream, but this time the situation seems to be much worse. As a matter of fact it looks like DroidKungFu is capable of avoiding detection by security software.
The malware makes its best with Android 2.2 and earlier, but the owners of later versions of Android are not entirely safe: the security patches severely limit DroidKungFu, but the malware is still able to collect some user data and send them to a remote site.
Again, follow basic, common-sense guidelines for smartphone security in order to mitigate the risks of infection (here you may find some useful suggestions), even because Google Wallet is at the gates and I dare not even think to the aftermaths of a malware leveraging vulnerabilities on the Secure Element…
- DroidDream is Back! (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
There is a new nightmare on the Android Market, and again many Android devices are not going to have a good awakening.
The last security advice for the Google Mobile OS comes from Lookout, which has discovered a new variant of the infamous DroidDream, the first malware conveyed by the Official Android Market capable of infecting at the beginning of March, according to Symantec, between 50.000 and 200.000 devices.
This time the brand new version, dubbed DroidDreamLight, was found in 26 repackaged applications from 5 different developers distributed in the Android Market. According to Lookout DroidDreamLight is no less than is “noble” predecessor, since was able to affect between 30.000 and 120.000 users.
According to Lookout, the malicious components of DroidDream Light are invoked on receipt of an android.intent.action.PHONE_STATE intent (e.g. an incoming voice call). As a consequence DroidDream Light does not depend on manual launch of the installed application to trigger its behavior. The broadcast receiver immediately launches the <package>.lightdd.CoreService which contacts remote servers and supplies the IMEI, IMSI, Model, SDK Version and information about installed packages. It appears that the DDLight is also capable of downloading and prompting installation of new packages, though unlike its predecessors it is not capable of doing so without user intervention.
The list of the infected applications (already removed from Google) is available at the original link. I must confess I could not help noticing the rich amount of “hot” applications, which confirm (unfortunately) to be a lethal weapon for carrying malware.
This event will raise again the concerns about the security policies on the Android Market, and about the apparently unstoppable evolution of the mobile threat landscape which has brought for the Android a brand new malware capable of sending data to a remote server. A further step closer to a mobile botnet even if, at least for this time, with limited capabilities of auto-installing packages,.
I will have to update my presentation, meanwhile do not forget to follow the guidelines for a correct mobile behavior:
- Avoid “promiscuous” behaviours (perform rooting, sideloading or jaibreaking with caution, most of all in case of a device used for professional purpose);
- Do not accept virtual candies from unkown virtual individuals, i.e. only install applications from trusted sources, always check the origin and their permissions during installation;
- Beware of unusual behavior of the phone (DroidDream owes its name to the fact that he used to perform most of its malicious action from 11 P.M to 8 A.M.);
- Beware of risks hidden behind social Network (see my post of yesterday on mobile phishing);
- Use security software;
- Keep the device updated.
- DroidDreamLight malware hits dozens of Android apps (venturebeat.com)
- Malicious apps removed from Android Market (news.cnet.com)
- Malicious apps removed from Android Market (news.cnet.com)
- Lookout Teams Pegs 25 Android Market Apps Infected With DroidDreamLight Malware (androidpolice.com)
- 30,000 to 120,000 Android Users Affected by New Variant of Droid Dream Malware (readwriteweb.com)
- New Android malware spotted: DroidDream Light (intomobile.com)
The title of this post is not a subset of the famous Peter Weir’s Movie “The Year Of Living Dangerously“, featuring Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver, but rather refers to the dangerous months which the Android is living, from the second half of 2010 to this first half of 2011, which saw a dramatic increase in Android Malware.
I enjoyed in summarizing in a single picture the mobile malware which affected Google Mobile OS from August 2010 to the present day. As shown the results are not encouraging and seems to confirm, in a qualitative form, the 400% increase in mobile malware (in six months) recently stated by Juniper Networks: un the second half of 2011 we assisted mainly to variants of the first Trojan. In the first half of 2011 the landscape has become much more complicated with mobile malware tailored “for different needs”.
So far the threats are can be divided essentially into two categories:
- Malware capable of stealing data, sending them to a remote C&C, which in a mobile platform may have worst consequences since it may send remote data to a C&C Server);
- Malware capable of sending SMS to premium rate numbers without the user permission (and awareness).
In many cases the malware was downloaded by parallel markets (most of all from China and Russia), with often the pornography acting like a decoy for the unfortunates, hence showing the risks connected with sideloading, that is the practice to enable installation of applications downloaded from external markets.
Two examples were particularly meaningful: the example of Geinimi, which showed all the features of a Botnet. And the example of DroidDream which bypassed all the security control of Android Market and infected something between 50.000 and 200.000 users according to Symantec and were remotely removed by Google, thus prefiguring a new security model which remotely manages the security functions of endpoint (and everything suggests that this trend will soon spread to more traditional endpoints: just today I stumbled upon this really interesting article).
By the way… Just today, three German security researchers discovered a serious flaw on the ClientLogin Authentication Protocol affecting almost all the Android powered devices… Ok it is not a malware, but the security concerns for the Google Mobile Operating System are more relevant than ever…
- 400 Percent Increase In Android Malware; Mobile Security Threats At Record High (techcrunch.com)
- If The Droid Gets The (China’s) Flu (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
- Chronicles Of The Android (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
The thought of this night is dedicated to yet another couple of android malwares detected (as usual) in China.
It was a bit of time that the droid was not sick, however, as the change of season is often fatal to humans, so it is for the Androids which caught two new infections in few days.
On May, the 11th, it was the turn of a new Trojan embedded, once again as in the case of the notorious DroidDream (but I’d rather say that malware is becoming a nightmare for the Google Creature) in official applications inside the Android Market. All the applications were published by the same developer, Zsone, and were suddenly removed by Google.
The Trojan, which affects Chinese users, is characterized by the ability to subscribe users in China to premium rate QQ codes via SMS without their knowledge. QQ codes, used primarily in China, are a form of short code that can subscribe users to SMS update or instant message services. The malware was embedded in 10 apps by the developer named Zsone available on the Android Market and alternative markets.
Once the user starts the app on their phone, the app will silently send an SMS message to subscribe the user to a premium-rate SMS service without their authorization or knowledge. This may result in charges to the affected phone owner’s mobile accounts. Even if the threat affects Chinese Android phone owners who downloaded the app from the Android Market, the total number of downloads attributed to this app in the Android Market has appeared to be under 10,000. All instances of the threat have been removed from the market.
On May, the 12th, it was the turn of ANDROIDOS_TCENT.A, discovered by Trend Micro. This malware, which only affects China Mobile subscribers (the state-owned service provider considered the world’s largest mobile phone operator), arrived to users through a link sent through SMS, whose message invited the China Mobile users to install a patch for their supposedly vulnerable devices by accessing the given link, which actually led to a malicious file (fake AV have landed on mobile devices as well).
The malware is capable to obtain certain information about the affected devices such as IMEI number, phone model, and SDK version and connects to a certain URL to request for an XML configuration file.
Two very different infections, having a common origin from China: the first example emphasizes once again the breaches into the security and reputation model of the Android Market. The second one features a well established infection model who is rapidly gaining credit (and victims) also in the mobile world: the SMS phishing. I think we will often hear speaking about in the next months.
The two malware infections came a couple of days after the Malicious Mobile Threats Report 2010/2011 issued by Juniper Networks which indicated a 400% increase in Android malware since summer 2010 and other key findings, several of which were clearly found in the above mentioned infections:
- App Store Threats: That is the single greatest distribution point for mobile malware is application download, yet the vast majority of smartphone users are not employing an endpoint security solution on their mobile device to scan for malware;
- Wi-Fi Threats: Mobile devices are increasingly susceptible to Wi-Fi attacks, including applications that enable an attacker to easily log into victim email and social networking applications
- 17 percent of all reported infections were due to SMS trojans that sent SMS messages to premium rate numbers, often at irretrievable cost to the user or enterprise
- Device Loss and Theft: according to the author of the report: 1 in 20 among the Juniper customer devices were lost or stolen, requiring locate, lock or wipe commands to be issued
Will it also be for these reasons that Smartphone security software market is expected to reach $2.99 billion by 2017? Maybe! Meanwhile I recommend to be very careful to install applications from parallel markets and in any case (since we have seen that this is not enough) to always check the application permissions during installation. Moreover, do not forget to install a security software if possible as the 23% of the droid users (among which there is me) does.
- Android market affected by SMS Trojans (nakedsecurity.sophos.com)
- Security Alert: Zsone Trojan found in Android Market (mylookout.com)
- Update: Android Malware DroidDream: How it Works (mylookout.com)
The Apple and the Android (almost) never agree in anything, but the issue of the Location Tracking has done the miracle and if there is one only point that Cupertino and Mountain View have in common, it is just the bad habit to track user’s position without his/her knowledge.
After the well known issue of iPhone hidden (so to say) location tracking, Wired was able to discover why Apple devices collect these kind od data, unleashing 13-page letter sent by Apple’s general counsel Bruce Sewell in July 2010, explaining its location-data-collection techniques. The letter was written in response to a request from Congressmen Joe Barton and Edward Markey asking for Apple to disclose such practices (Incidentally, Markey authored the “Do Not Track” bill to stop online companies from tracking children).
Although no comment so far has arrived from Apple, I was disappointed in discovering, from a Cisco Blog Post, dealing with the same argument, that a similar
bad habit collection has been detected for Google’s Android (at least the Android needs the root permission to grab the data).
In both cases the alleged main purpose of this data collection is to provide better location services. Instead my feeling is that the main benefit in this situation is not for the user, but for the marketing and/or advertising agencies which could come in possession of the data.
Interesting to notice the iPhone 3GS Software License Agreement states that:
By using any location-based services on your iPhone, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its partners’ licensees’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing and use of your location data to provide such products and services.
Location data – Google offers location-enabled services, such as Google Maps and Latitude. If you use those services, Google may receive information about your actual location (such as GPS signals sent by a mobile device) or information that can be used to approximate a location (such as a cell ID).
Until now, nothing special, except the fact that Latitude asks for the user’s consent to share the data with the other, which, if I am not wrong, does not occurr for Google Maps. But the interesting point come a some lines below:
In addition to the above, we may use the information we collect to:
- Provide, maintain, protect, and improve our services (including advertising services) and develop new services; and
- Protect the rights or property of Google or our users.
Meanwhile Minnesota Senator Al Franken and the attorney general of Illinois are separately pressing Apple and Google to provide more information about the location data they collect about their end users…
- Lawmakers quiz Apple, Google about location tracking (infoworld.com)
- Grab Your Data? There’s An App For That! (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
- IPhone Stored Location Even if Disabled (online.wsj.com)
- Apple, Google Collect User Data (online.wsj.com)
- iPhone Location Tracking: Important, Even if it Doesn’t Matter to You (blogs.cisco.com)
I know it is late and I am quite tired after a day of work. Still few seconds (and energies) to comment a new Gartner Report confirming what previously indicated by ABI Research and IDC, according to which, the Google Creature will command Nearly Half of Worldwide Smartphone Operating System Market by Year-End 2012.
Worldwide Mobile Communications Device Sales to End Users by OS (Thousands of Units)
|Market Share (%)||37.6||19.2||5.2||0.1|
|Market Share (%)||22.7||38.5||49.2||48.8|
|Research In Motion||47,452||62,600||79,335||122,864|
|Market Share (%)||16.0||13.4||12.6||11.1|
|Market Share (%)||15.7||19.4||18.9||17.2|
|Market Share (%)||4.2||5.6||10.8||19.5|
|Other Operating Systems||11,417.4||18,392.3||21,383.7||36,133.9|
|Market Share (%)||3.8||3.9||3.4||3.3|
Source: Gartner (April 2011)
In my opinion it worths noticing the inevitable fall of Symbian, the slow but inexorable descent of RIM, and the equally slow growth of Microsoft wich will be able to nearly touch the 20% only in 2015.
The android has every reason to celebrate and nothing better do it properly than this video in which an HTC Desire solves a dodecahedron Rubik’s Cube: an HTC desire runs a custom Android app which uses the phone’s camera to take individual images of each of the puzzle’s 12 faces, then processes the information and sends a signal via Bluetooth to the NXT controller,
ComScore has just published its Press Release related to February 2011 U.S. Mobile Subscriber Market Share. 69.5 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during the three months ending in February 2011, up 13 % from the preceding period. As we have become accustomed to a few months, the Android is still on the top, earning 7 percentage points since November 2010, achieving a 33% market share. RIM ranked second with 28.9 percent market share, followed by Apple with 25.2 percent. Microsoft (7.7 %) and Palm (2.8 %) rounded out the top five.
|Top Smartphone Platforms:
3 Month Avg. Ending Feb. 2011 vs. 3 Month Avg. Ending Nov. 2010
Total U.S. Smartphone Subscribers Ages 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens
|Share (%) of Smartphone Subscribers|
|Total Smartphone Subscribers||100.0%||100.0%||N/A|
Considering the market share on a per-vendor base, provides a different interpretation, and explains some strategic mobile choices of the Mountain View giant. Among the OEM, Samsung ranked at the #1 with 24.8% of U.S. mobile subscribers, up 0.3 percentage points from the previous three month period. LG ranked #2 with 20.9 percent share, followed by Motorola (16.1 %) and RIM (8.6 percent). Apple saw the strongest gain, up 0.9 percentage points to account for 7.5 percent of subscribers.
|Top Mobile OEMs
3 Month Avg. Ending Feb. 2011 vs. 3 Month Avg. Ending Nov. 2010
Total U.S. Mobile Subscribers Ages 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens
|Share (%) of Mobile Subscribers|
|Total Mobile Subscribers||100.0%||100.0%||N/A|
I am not new to this kind of considerations (already faced in a previous post in Italian), but it is clear that the Android Landscape is becoming a little bit too much fragmented, and this risks to be a serious issue for the Android, both in terms of consumers’ perception, both in terms of security. As far as the consumer perception is concerned: many vendors are pushing more and more customizations not only on their own Android ROMs, but even on the services provided to consumer (read vendor-dedicated markets and services). This sounds confusing for the consumer who will inevitably ask why should he consider, inside the same platform, different parameters of choice external to the mere features of the devices (and how they map to consumer’s need). Not to mention also the tragedy of software updates: a new major release of the Android may take also one year to be ported in some devices, because of the wide customizations made by the manufacturers on their smartphones.
As far as security considerations are concerned, customization affects platform (in)stability and, inevitably security, if it is true that the same code must be adapted to run on different architectures, and security bugs are always behind the door.
These factors are probably behind the rumors claiming that Google has been demanding that Android licensees abide by “non-fragmentation clauses” that give Google the final say on how they can tweak the Android code, to make new interfaces and add services, and also behind the (not confirmed) rumors of standardizing the ARM Chip for Android 3.0. If we sum up these rumors with the fact the Mountain View will not (at least initially) release the Honeycomb Source Code, it looks clear that Google is running for cover in order to stem the excessive number of fragments in which OEM vendors are reducing its precious Android.
The Android is winning the market share battle against Apple and RIM, and forecasts for the next years show a bright future for the Android, destined to achieve nearly the half of the market in 2015. So far the Mountain View Strategy has shown to be winning, but the only obstacle, in this triumphant ride, could by represented by fragmentation, which might drive consumers to the monolithic models of Cupertino and Waterloo.