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Researcher Hijacks Android Phone via Chrome Vulnerability

Over the past few months, Google has been busy squashing security vulnerabilities in its popular Android mobile operating system, but many remain undiscovered, and some can be easily exploited.

Over the past few months, Google has been busy squashing security vulnerabilities in its popular Android mobile operating system, but many remain undiscovered, and some can be easily exploited.

Chinese researcher Guang Gong from Qihoo 360 demonstrated at MobilePwn2Own at the PacSec conference in Tokyo how an Android device running the latest version of the operating system can be hijacked by exploiting a JavaScript v8 vulnerability through the Chrome browser. Granted, the security flaw did not reside in the Android OS itself, but devices running on the platform are vulnerable.

Gong discovered a JavaScript v8 vulnerability in Chrome for Android that allowed him to install an arbitrary application on the affected device, in this case a BMX Bike game, without requiring any user interaction, PacSec organizer Dragos Ruiu explained in a Google+ post. As long as Chrome is used to navigate to a malicious site an attacker set up, the device can be infected.

The exploit was demonstrated on a Google Project Fi Nexus 6 running the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow build and with all applications up-to-date. The researcher demonstrated that the vulnerability could provide an attacker with complete control of the device, and that successful exploitation does not require chaining multiple vulnerabilities.

This one shot exploit was revealed after three-months of work, Ruiu said, but exact details on the security flaw were not publicly disclosed. According to Ruiu, the exploit was tested on other devices as well, and it worked on all of them.

Given that the vulnerability is in the JavaScript engine in Chrome, it is believed to affect all Android versions with the latest version of the browser installed. Details on the vulnerability were handed to a Chrome engineer at the conference, Ruiu announced via Twitter.

Unfortunately for Gong, his presentation at the conference did not result in an immediate reward for his efforts, though it is likely that Google will reward him for discovering the vulnerability, as the company has a bug bounty program set up for Chrome and Chrome OS.

“Since we don’t have any lavish prizes for him, I’m bringing him to Canada next year for some skiing/snowboarding at CanSecWest,” Ruiu said, so it seems that a prize will be coming from the PacSec organizers.

Google will most likely resolve the vulnerability soon, even if the details on the exploit haven’t been made public as of now.

Security researchers have discovered a series of critical Android vulnerabilities this year, including the Stagefright flaw that affected close to a billion devices, and a Stagefright 2 issue suspected to affect devices running all Android versions, starting with the initial release.

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