A security flaw in Qualcomm’s MSM chips that has now been fixed could have given attackers access to SMS messages and phone calls from around a third of the world Android smartphones.
Qualcomm is one of the largest chip manufacturers today and its chips are currently found in over 40 percent of smartphones, including high-end devices from Google, Samsung, LG, Xiaomi and OnePlus.
The chip maker has also created a proprietary protocol called Qualcomm MSM Interface (QMI) that allows its MSM chips to communicate with other peripheral subsystems on an Android device such as cameras and fingerprint scanners. According to technology market research company Counterpoint, QMI can be found at approximately 30 percent However, little is known of all cell phones around the world about their role as a potential attack vector.
During the investigation, Check Point discovered a security flaw in Qualcomm’s MSM chips that allow the modem of a smartphone to be controlled and dynamically patched by the application processor.
As a result, an attacker could have used the vulnerability in question to inject Malicious code into the modem of an Android device, which gives it full access to a user’s call history and text messages, as well as the ability to listen to a user’s phone calls. In addition, a hacker could exploit the vulnerability to unlock a device’s SIM card.
Check Point responsibly announced its discovery to Qualcomm, and the chipmaker developed a patch for the problem while notifying relevant smartphone vendors. Users should apply the latest updates from their smartphone manufacturer to protect them from possible exploits in the wild.
However, to protect against similar security vulnerabilities, Check Point recommends that users update their operating system to the latest version and only install apps from official app stores like this Google Play Store and install a mobile antivirus for extra protection. In the meantime, companies should enable remote wiping for all of their employees’ work equipment to minimize the chance of sensitive data being lost.
over Ars Technica