Manufacturers and network operators have been pushing 5G technology vigorously even during a pandemic that forced some industries to stand still for a while. Now, however, it seems that one of the most critical hardware components this technology allows for users is also putting it at risk. Qualcomm’s 5G modem reportedly has a very serious flaw that can be exploited through Android and potentially endanger hundreds of thousands of users.
The mistake according to Check Point Research, found in Qualcomm’s Mobile Station Modem, a technology that has been around since 1990. She is responsible for many of the modem-related functions of 4G LTE and then 5G as well. That means almost every phone that uses a 5G-enabled Qualcomm processor could be at risk from this vulnerability. However, there is one more element that makes the situation worse.
The security researchers point out that the flaw can easily be exploited through the Android operating system, which is pretty much the operating system that runs on all phones with Qualcomm chips, including the newer 5G chips. Attackers can simply send a specially crafted SMS to take control of it, gain access to read messages, view the phone’s call history, or even unlock the device’s SIM card.
The good news is that Check Point Research reported this bug to Qualcomm, who were able to develop a fix for it late last year. The researchers did not publicly disclose the vulnerability to give Qualcomm time to make the necessary fixes and to notify its partners.
The bad news is that we’re also talking about Android here and it’s up to the manufacturers to actually deliver this bugfix to their customers. Some OEMs are better than others in this regard, but unfortunately all Snapdragon 5G phones are affected, regardless of how fast or slow updates are released.