Researchers with Google’s Project Zero have disclosed a zero-day local privilege escalation vulnerability in its Android mobile operating system that could let an attacker assume control of affected devices. Evidence shows the bug is being exploited in the wild, they report.
Hundreds of millions of Android phones are vulnerable to CVE-2019-2215 given a patch has not yet been released. Models include the Google Pixel 2 running Android 9 and 10 preview; the Huawei P20, Xiaomi Redmi 5A, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5, Xiaomi A1, Oppo A3, Moto Z3, and Oreo LG phones; and the Samsung S7, S8, and S9 running 8.x releases. Pixel 3 and 3a are not affected.
This issue was patched in December 2017 on earlier Android versions, said Project Zero researcher Maddie Stone in a blog post, but source code review indicates newer versions are vulnerable.
The use-after-free vulnerability is considered a “high-severity” bug on Android, Google’s Tim Willis also wrote. By itself, it requires the target to download a malicious application for potential exploitation. An attacker would have to chain this bug with an additional exploit to remotely infect and control a target device through the Web browser or another attack vector.
“The bug is a local privilege escalation vulnerability that allows for a full compromise of a vulnerable device,” Stone explained. “If the exploit is delivered via the Web, it only needs to be paired with a renderer exploit, as this vulnerability is accessible through the sandbox.”
Data from the Technical Analysis Group and third parties indicate an Android exploit can be attributed to Israel’s NSO Group, which in the past has been known to develop and sell exploits to governments. In February, an exploit seemingly part of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware program was used to install surveillance software onto target mobile phones via WhatsApp.
Willis says Pixel 1 and 2 devices will be receiving fixes for this bug in the October update. Android partners have been notified and a patch is available on the Android Common Kernel.
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