Some Android OEMs Reportedly Skipping Security Patches
Some Android OEMs Reportedly Skipping Security Patches
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13 April, 2018, 10:38
These OEMs have just been changing the date of the security patches on the device without actually installing the associated patches an have been misleading their users.
This is according to Wired which reported on research set to be published tomorrow at the Hack in the Box security conference. That can mean frustration for those waiting for the latest and greatest feature updates - and in some cases, it can put your phone at risk with delayed or missed security updates.
The patch gaps and bugs are found in the chips rather than in its operating system.
What's The Story Of Android's Security Patches All About?
With Android P, "all traffic should be encrypted, regardless of content, as any unencrypted connections can be used to inject content, increase attack surface for potentially vulnerable client code, or track the user", Android security engineer Chad Brubaker wrote. This is incredibly simple to fake-even you or I could do it on a rooted device by modifying ro.build.version.security_patch in build.prop. The researchers looked into 1,200 handsets from companies like Samsung, Sony, Google, Huawei, Motorola, LG, HTC, and more and discovered that there is usually a "patch gap" between what the mobiles say have been updated and what patches have been installed. Google's phones seem to be safe, however, as the Pixel and Pixel 2 series did not misrepresent what security patches they had. In other cases, there was no reasonable explanation for why some phones claimed to patch certain vulnerabilities when in fact they were missing multiple critical patches.
For all the good of Android's open-source approach, one of the clear and consistent downsides is that the onus to issue software updates falls on the manufacturer. Unsurprisingly, Pixel phones are the best, accurately indicating that they're up to date with security fixes, and devices from Samsung and Sony aren't far behind, maybe only missing one fix out of a larger batch. There is no official comment on this by Google; however we will keep you posted with further updates related to the security patches, so stay tuned with us. Does that necessarily mean that TCL and ZTE are at fault? Cheaper chips from the lower-end suppliers missed the most patches with a less well-maintained Android ecosystem.
The researchers noted that the SoCs that the smartphones use may be the cause of the issue. We're working with them to improve their detection mechanisms to account for situations where a device uses an alternate security update instead of the Google suggested security update. If you are interested in seeing what patches your device is missing, the team at SRL labs has created an Android application that analyzes your phone's firmware for installed and missing security patches.
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