A VULNERABILITY in Qualcomm chipsets could allow attackers to gain unauthorised access to sensitive data on Android devices.
Researchers at Check Point uncovered the flaw (CVE-2019-10574), which exists in Qualcomm's Secure Execution Environment (QSEE), an implementation of Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) based on ARM TrustZone technology.
QSEE, more commonly known as Qualcomm Secure World, is a secured area present on the main processor. The purpose of creating this hardware-protected space is to secure sensitive information, such as passwords, payment card credentials and encryption keys.
ARM TrustZone has now become an integral part of all modern mobile devices. These devices come with specialised, trusted components that handle movement from device's Rich Execution Environment (REE) to TEE. In this way, the hardware-based security capabilities of the TEE can be prevented from being compromised by software or apps outside the trusted zone.
TEE executes at the same time as the Android OS and runs only trusted code shielded from user-installed apps.
Qualcomm's Secure Execution Environment is now used on LG, Pixel, Samsung, Xiaomi, HTC, Sony, OnePlus, and many other devices.
In the study, Check Point researchers tested trusted Qualcomm code on LG, Motorola and Samsung smartphones using a custom-made fuzzing tool. This sees a system hit with large amounts of random data in the hopes of crashing it and revealing coding errors in the system which can then be used to dodge security protections.
According to the researchers, they found vulnerabilities in all the devices tested using the fuzzing tool, proving "programmers from the best vendors as well as Qualcomm" had made mistakes in their code.
Researchers found that the vulnerability in the secure components of Qualcomm could allow an attacker to run trusted apps in the Normal World (Android OS); load the patched trusted app into the Secure World; and to circumvent Qualcomm's Chain Of Trust, and much more
The issue was disclosed to Qualcomm in June 2019 so that it could release a patch for it. According to the chipmaker, the issue has now been fixed, and users must apply the latest updates to secure their devices from attacks.
"Providing technologies that support robust security and privacy is a priority for Qualcomm," a Qualcomm spokesperson said.
"The vulnerabilities publicized by Check Point have been patched, one in early October 2019 and the other in November 2014. We have seen no reports of active exploitation, though we encourage end-users to update their devices with patches available from OEMs." µ
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