Santa Clara, Calif., March 24, 2015 – Palo Alto Networks® (NYSE: PANW), the leader in enterprise security, today revealed details of a widespread vulnerability in Google’s Android mobile operating system that allows attackers to hijack the installation of a seemingly safe Android application -- Android Package File (APK) -- on user devices, and replace it with an app of the attacker’s choice, without user knowledge.
Exploitation of this vulnerability, which is estimated to affect about 49.5 percent of current Android device users, allows attackers to potentially distribute malware, compromise devices and steal user data. Palo Alto Networks today also released an application to help potentially affected Android users diagnose their devices.
Vulnerability Allows Stealth Bait & Switch
Discovered by Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 threat researcher Zhi Xu, the vulnerability exploits a flaw in Android’s “PackageInstaller” system service, allowing attackers to silently gain unlimited permissions in compromised devices. Specifically:
Unit 42, the Palo Alto Networks threat intelligence team, has worked with Google and Android device manufacturers such as Samsung and Amazon to help protect users and patch this vulnerability in affected versions of Android. Some older-version Android devices may remain vulnerable.
- Ryan Olson, Intelligence Director, Unit 42, Palo Alto Networks
The vulnerability disclosed today affects Android applications downloaded from third-party sources, and does not affect applications accessed from Google Play. Palo Alto Networks recommends the following for enterprises concerned about the risk of malware through Android devices:
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About Unit 42
Unit 42, the Palo Alto Networks threat intelligence team, is made up of accomplished cybersecurity researchers, and industry experts. Unit 42 gathers, researches, and analyzes up-to-the-minute threat intelligence, sharing insights with Palo Alto Networks customers, partners, and the broader community to better protect organizations. Unit 42 team leads regularly appear at industry conferences throughout the world.
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Palo Alto Networks