A new study has showed that a major vulnerability existed on Android devices since 2011. This new flaw was found in the Audio Decoder (codec) which could give hackers access to the device’s audio conversations as well as its media. The study claims that two-thirds of all smartphones sold in 2021 are vulnerable to this attack. Also Read - Twitter’s closed captions feature arrives on Android, iOS: How to use it
According to the study published by Check Point, MediaTek and Qualcomm, the two largest mobile chipset manufacturers in the world, used the ALAC audio coding in their widely distributed mobile handsets. This put millions of Android users’ privacy at risk. The report claims that Qualcomm and MediaTek acknowledged the vulnerabilities, and have rolled out patches and fixes in response. Also Read - Captain America Chris Evans says goodbye to his iPhone 6s with a touching tribute
Apple’s role in the newly discovered vulnerability
The Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC), also known as Apple Lossless, is an audio coding format, developed by Apple Inc. and first introduced in 2004 for lossless data compression of digital music. Also Read - Google’s new Chromebook features make it easier to connect to Android phones
In late 2011 Apple made the codec open source. Since then, the ALAC format has been embedded in many non-Apple audio playback devices and programs, including Android-based smartphones, Linux and Windows media players and converters.
Since then Apple has been updating the proprietary version of the decoder several times, fixing and patching security issues, but the shared code has not been patched since 2011. Many third-party vendors use the Apple-supplied code as the basis for their own ALAC implementations, and it’s fair to assume that many of them do not maintain the external code.
Check Point claims that Qualcomm and MediaTek ported the vulnerable ALAC code into their audio decoders, which are used in more than half of all smartphones worldwide.
How could the flaw impact Android users
Check Point researchers found that the ALAC vulnerability could be used by an attacker for remote code execution attack (RCE) on a mobile device through a malformed audio file. RCE attacks allow an attacker to remotely execute malicious code on a computer. The impact of an RCE vulnerability can range from malware execution to an attacker gaining control over a user’s multimedia data, including streaming from a compromised machine’s camera.
Additionally, an unprivileged Android app could use these vulnerabilities to escalate its privileges and gain access to media data and user conversations. The vulnerabilities were fixed by both MediaTek and Qualcomm in December 2021.