Category Archives: Google

25 Android Phones Vulnerable

No big surprise here really, but still disappointing.

Researchers at Def Con last week reported that they had found 47 vulnerabilities in the firmware and default apps of 25 Android phones.

When they talk firmware, I don’t think they really mean firmware.  Rather, they mean the operating system like Android Oreo or Nougat, although it is possible that they mean the software that lives below the operating system and controls things like the radio hardware or camera hardware.  That stuff is buggy too.

The good news is that the bugs are not serious.  All they allow a hacker to do is:

  • Send or receive text messages
  • Take screenshots of whatever you are looking at
  • Record videos of your screen
  • Steal your contacts
  • Install malware and crimeware without your approval
  • Wipe your data

Other than that, not really a big deal.

Just kidding.  Holy cow!  That pretty much means they can do whatever they want.

Part of the problem are those apps that come preinstalled on your phone because the manufacturer or carrier gets paid to put them there.  Affectionately, that software is called crapware.  Those are the apps that they will not let you remove.  But some of them are vulnerable to attack.

Android phone vendors affected include:

  • ZTE
  • Sony
  • Nokia
  • LG
  • Asus
  • and a host of smaller players

This does not mean all models were tested or all models were affected.

IT ALSO DOESN’T MEAN THAT BECAUSE YOUR VENDOR ISN’T LISTED IT IS SAFE.  THE RESEARCHERS ONLY HAD A LIMITED AMOUNT OF TIME AND MONEY.

Part of the problem is that many of the companies that manufacture phones are used to selling washing machines and headphones – stuff that you do not have to patch.  As a result, they are not really culturally ready to deal with a product that releases hundreds of patches a year.

But they need to.

So what should you do?

Some people say “but my phone is not broke, why do I need to get a new one”? That is because, even though it works, after a while, it doesn’t get any patches.  That doesn’t mean that researchers won’t find new security holes for the Chinese to exploit to steal your data and try to get you to pay them to give it back.  In fact, old phones are the most likely to get attacked because they are the least likely to get patched.

BEFORE you buy any phone, look for the manufacturer’s guarantee of patches.  For example, Google is about to release the Pixel 3, but they say they will be issuing patches for the Pixel 2 Until October 2020 – at least.  If the manufacturer is cagey about patches and support, choose a different one.  Apple calls their unsupported products “Vintage”, but that just is just a cute term for “You are on your own, buddy”.  iPhone 4 and older are vintage.  Reports indicate that due to less than exciting sales, the iPhone X might see the end of its life as early as this year.  That doesn’t mean that they won’t patch it however.  They just won’t sell it.  The iPhone 5s is the oldest phone that supports iOS 12.  Apple does a very nice job of supporting older phones.

See how often your chosen vendor releases software patches.  Google and Apple release patches monthly.  Some vendors don’t ever release patches and others release them quarterly or less frequently.  Long wait for a patch?  Find a different vendor.

It is not just the manufacturer you have to worry about, but also all of the apps that you have installed.  Less apps is better.  Maybe not as much fun, but definitely more secure.  Uninstall anything you are not using any more.  Really. 

I know this is a pain in the tush, but, sorry, you just have to deal with it.  iPhones and Google Pixel phones are definitely the best when it comes to timely patches.

Remember that all it takes to get infected is to receive a well crafted malicious email (you don’t have to click on anything), a malicious text or visit a malicious web site.  NO. CLICKING. REQUIRED!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Information for this post came from Bleeping Computer.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmailby feather

Google to Add GMail Features – Maybe – For A Fee?

Google has a interesting strategy.  Build prototypes of products.  Show them or leak them.  See if anyone cares.   Kill them if it doesn’t work out – there are lots of examples.  After many users are already using them.

One other thing that they do is attempt to lock users into the Google ecosystem.  Of course.

Tech Crunch is reporting that Google is working on a self destructing email (like Snap Chat for email?).  But it only works if both users are on GMail and only if both users use the web client for GMail.  Sounds a bit limiting.  If one user is not using the GMail web client, they get a link instead that takes them to the web.

They may also be adding a feature to stop printing and stop forwarding.

Again, if they do, it will only work for GMail on both ends and only with the GMail web client.

Information for this post came from The Register.

So what does this mean?

Well first, what seems to be missing is end to end encryption, which seems like a pretty important feature.  

But encryption stops them from reading your email and doing things that they like to do.  They don’t read your emails to target ads – they have better ways to target ads – but they do read them for other features.

Next, the speculation is that this will only be available under the paid GMail model (GMail for business).  The paid version costs either $10 or $25 a month per user.  At that price there are competitors.

As of last year, Google said that they had 3 million paying users.  Microsoft says that they have 60 million paying Office 365 users and adding 50,000 customers (not mailboxes) a month.  Google never wants to play second fiddle.

It is certainly possible that they will give it away for free, but given that they are so far behind Microsoft, maybe not.  With GDPR taking effect in the European Union next month and other countries, not including the U.S. following the EU lead, maybe ad revenue might be less predictable going forward.  Millions of monthly paying customers might be nice.

If you are looking for a free answer for secure email, Proton mail is a good choice.  They also have a paid version with more features, but the free version is pretty good.

Office 365 has nice security features at well below $25 a month.  Microsoft has said that they are about to roll out end to end encryption for all paid Office 365 users at all levels.

The bottom line is that if you are looking for a secure email solution there are some decisions to make.  To me, Google’s solution is not so great.

 

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmailby feather

Chrome to Mark All HTTP Sites as Not Secure in July

For those companies that haven’t installed HTTPS certificates on their web site because, you know, why bother – Google has just upped the ante a bit.

Starting in July, the Chrome browser will mark all websites that do not use HTTPS by default NOT SECURE.

It used to be that HTTPS certificates were expensive and complicated, but that has gotten a lot simpler and a lot cheaper in the last few years.

Chrome, which leads the way in market share with about 60% of the market, is often the bell weather for other browser makers to follow.

Additionally, even currently, sites that are not HTTPS get their Google search engine page rank lowered, so they appear further down in the Google listings than other sites.

While they have not said this, if history is any indicator, the next move after this release will be to issue a warning to users saying the site they are about to visit is not secure and do you really want to proceed.  They will have to click on a box to get the browser to display the web page.

Our recommendation is that if you have not already made your site AUTOMATICALLY use HTTPS, now it the time to get that done.

Information for this post came from Google’s Blog.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmailby feather

Google Creates New Security Center for G-Suite Enterprise Customers

Google is trying to keep up with the Jones (AKA Micosoft) and is building some security tools for its enterprise customers.  Microsoft is way ahead in this area and if Google wants to compete in the enterprise space it needs to offer enterprise class tools.

First of all, this only is available to G-Suite Enterprise customers.  Most Google users use the free version.  Above that is Basic at $5 per user per month, then Business at $10 and finally Enterprise at $25.  So this capability is only available to a small percentage of Google customers.

Still, those customers are the ones with the best revenue per customer and Google is losing some of them back to Microsoft.

For enterprise customers, this is a great addition.

For some customers, this may be motivation to upgrade to the next level of pricing plan.

The first piece of the security center is a dashboard that gives admins a view of their overall security posture.  It gives those admins a view across products like GMail, Google Drive and others.

The second feature gives the admin an overview of the company’s cyber security settings and make recommendations for improving security.

Google’s plan is to continue to enhance the dashboard so that it will have more features and functionality.

This is a smart move on Google’s part.  Hopefully, they will give Business class users access to this.  It may be that they are testing it on enterprise customers to tune it or maybe they will create a stripped down version for Business customers.  Clearly, this is a useful tool.

If you are a Google Enterprise customer, you should check this out.

 

Information for this post came from Techcrunch.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmailby feather

Don’t Turn on WiFi on Your Phone Until You Patch it

An interesting vulnerability was just announced that affects both Apple and Google/Android phones.  That is something that is very unusual.

The bug is tied to a part of all cell phones called the baseband processor.  It is the part of the phone that controls the radios inside your phone.  In this case, the chip is the Broadcom 43xx family of chips.  According to Broadcom this chip can control your cellular radio, WiFi, Bluetooth and FM radio all on one chip.

Unfortunately, researchers found a bug in the WiFi code that would allow an attacker to take over the baseband processor and from there, the entire phone.

The reason this affects both Apple and Android phones is that this chip is used by almost everyone.  From iPhone 5s to the newest Android phones, they are all impacted.

Apple just released iOS 10.3.3 (which may or may not have been downloaded to your iPhone yet) and Google just released an Android patch in the July updates.  Unlike Apple devices, Android users have to wait for manufacturers to pick up Google’s fixes and test them and then wait again for carriers to make them available.  The only users who do not have to wait are Google branded Android phone users.  Those users get their patches directly from Google.

What can you do?

Three answers.

If you are an Apple user, download iOS 10.3.3 and install it.  Done!

If you are a user who is running a relatively new version of the Android OS on your phone AND your phone manufacturer/carrier is actively releasing updates, you should install the July update as soon as it is available.  That might be 30 days or more.

If you are running an older version of the Android OS and/or your carrier/phone vendor is not releasing security updates, you are kind of out of luck.  Turn off your WiFi and DO NOT TURN IT ON EVER AGAIN.  This is probably. for most people, time to get a new phone.

Why, you say, am I so aggressive about this?

The report is that you only have to be within radio range of the WiFi access point which is trying to attack you in order to be compromised.  You DO NOT need to connect to that access point.  You do not need to open a web browser.  You do not need to install an app.  You do not need to click on a link.  All you need to do is be near a rogue WiFi access point – which could easily be hidden in someone’s backpack.

So, for now, until you have installed the patch, if you can, leave WiFi off.  If you can’t, then only turn it on when you have to.

We will know more after the researcher presents his findings at Blackhat later this month, but at least from what we have heard, this don’t not affect Windows or Mac computers, only mobile devices. But, stay tuned;  this is not the end of the story.

Information for this post came from Threatpost.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmailby feather

Google Adds Easy iOS Management Option for G-Suite Users

For those Google G-Suite (AKA Google Apps and Google Apps for Work) users, Google has released a new option for managing iPhones and iPads.

What is great about it is that it does NOT require installing an agent on the phone or pad.

Google calls it the Basic Mobile Management option for iOS and it allows G-Suite administrators to manage iOS devices without having to install an agent or a profile.

It allows administrators to enforce screen locks or passwords on the devices including the minimum or maximum number of characters in a password and the expiration period.

It can also force a factory reset after too many failed login attempts.

Administrators can wipe the entire device if it is lost or stolen or just G-Suite data if the user is leaving the company.

The software allows an administrator to see all of the devices connected to their domain which is certainly a nice feature.

Administrators will be able to set up corporate accounts on the devices similarly to setting up personal accounts.

Google does offer a more robust product, advanced mobile management, for users that want even more features, but for a lot of companies. Basic will be sufficient.

Curiously, this only works on non-Google (Apple) devices.  Users have to install an agent on Android devices to do the same thing.

Google Mobile Management is available at no extra charge for G-Suite users.

Information for this post came from eWeek and Google Support and G-Suite admin help.

 

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmailby feather