Security Experts:

Android Flaw Allows Rogue Apps to Disable Passcodes

Hackers can use rogue applications to disable passcodes and other device locks on the Android (Jellybean) mobile operating system, according to a warning issued by security research outfit Curesec.

The issue, described as a permission bypass design error, effectively means that rogue Android apps can be used to disable all the security locks and leave the device vulnerable to further attacks.

Android devices can be locked and unlocked with various mechanisms -- pin codes, passwords, gestures or face recognition -- but because of the security vulnerability, Curesec found that code can be embedded into malicious apps to control the lock/unlock mechanism.

The company released proof-of-concept code to demonstrate the vulnerability.

From the advisory:

The bug exists on the “com.android.settings.ChooseLockGeneric class”. This class is used to allow the user to modify the type of lock mechanism the device should have. Android implements several locks, like pin, password, gesture and even face recognition to lock and unlock a device. Before a user can change these settings, the device asks the user for confirmation of the previous lock (e.x. If a user wants to change the pin or remove it it has to first enter the previous pin).

Curesec said it reported the issue to Google's Android security team in November but noted that it currently remains unpatched.

Ryan is the host of the podcast series "Security Conversations - a podcast with Ryan Naraine". He is the head of Kaspersky Lab's Global Research & Analysis team in the USA and has extensive experience in computer security user education, specializing in operating system and third-party application vulnerabilities, zero-day attacks, social engineering and social networking threats. Prior to joining Kaspersky Lab, he monitored security and hacker attack trends for over 10 years, writing for eWEEK magazine and the ZDNet Zero Day blog. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanaraine.