Google made RCS, also known as Rich Communications Services, available for Android users around the world in October. The Rich Communications Services bring chat like features to standard messaging services. It is the next generation SMS protocol meant to replace SMS and MMS services. First defined by GSM Association in February 2008, the service only started making its waves in April 2018 when Google started integrating it with its Allo messaging application. The IP-based messaging service is based on SIP and HTTP to enable features such as group chats, filters among others.
While RCS aims to bring features seen on services like WhatsApp and others to standard messaging service, it has been found to be not that safe. According to Security Research Labs report, the RCS functionality is not properly protected with some implementations. It reportedly allows for a range of different hacking attacks. The researchers note that the improper implementation of RCS functionality in many networks result in hackers gaining complete control over the user accounts. This also allows hackers to steal RCS configuration including SIP and HTTP credentials.
Watch: Google Messages RCS: How to enable this on any Android smartphone
“The implementation lack in certificate and domain validation which allows an attacker to intercept and manipulate communication in the middle and they also failed to validate user identity, which allows caller ID spoofing,” according to GBHackers on Security. “These vulnerabilities can be exploited by a remote or local attacker to intercept an OTP message and to host fraudulent transactions and to take over your online accounts.”
A remote or local attacker can track users, impersonate them, conduct fraud, intercept text and even initiate website DDoS with RCS hacking attacks. [The] “attacks make current RCS deployments as vulnerable to hacking as legacy mobile technologies, such as 2G and SS7,” the SRLabs researchers said. According to GSMA, there are already 310 million active users with RCS services. It is currently supported by 84 operators around the world and another 27 operators are expected to add support in Q1 2020.
The Rich Communications Services is currently supported only with Android devices. If RCS message is received by a device or network that does not support it yet then it automatically becomes a regular text message. The service allows advertisers to send interactive and personalized messages. It eliminates need for additional apps to enable full interactive functions. It is not clear whether Google has already started work on fixes noted by Security Research Labs.