Fix for Security Hole in Android G1

Nov 14, 2008

In one fell swoop and with an automatically distributed patch, Google and T-Mobile fixed a problem with the G1 mobile phone whereby users could access root privileges and possibly raise all kinds of havoc.

In its originally delivered state, the G1 interpreted keyboard input as a remote shell request. This could be pretty annoying if you happen to type in "reboot" with applications running.

T-Mobile has since plugged the security hole with firmware update RC30, hoping thereby to raise the bar for any future hacks. The problem was discovered in early November, but got special notice after an experience by user jdhorvat. While talking on the G1 with his girlfriend, he restarted it.
When she asked why he wasn't responding, he IM'd her with the natural response "Reboot." He was surprised to see the device do just that.

Source of the security hole was boiled down to two lines of code in the init.rc file, according to the bug report. The file is a script that drives the boot process. A number of websites declared the problem one of the most embarrassing in recent history.

The G1 is manufactured by HTC and based on Google's Android platform, which is itself a knockoff of Linux and other Open Source components. Since its introduction, the G1 proved to be a favorite sport for hackers, who even managed to install and start Debian Lenny on it. The device is available in the U.S., but when other parts of the world start seeing it early 2009, all security holes will likely be plugged.

Related content

  • Kernel Hacker Wants to Crack Android Code

    Czech kernel developer Pavel Machek wants to be root on his T-Mobile G1 Android Linux mobile phone so that he can exploit security holes simply to extend usability of the phone.

  • Android-Powered Mobile Phone on Its Way

    In a New York press conference, Google and T-Mobile partnered with hardware vendor HTC to announce the release of the first mobile phone for Google's Android platform.

  • First Patches: Google Releases Android

    From today the source code for Google's Android is available for download, eradicating doubts surrounding the launch of the T-Mobile G1, that Google might keep the code under wraps.

  • Hackers Find Root Access to Android G1

    Hackers of the XDA Forum found a simple hack to gain access to root privileges on the Android platform of G1 mobile phones.

  • Debian Lenny on Android Phones

    Thanks to a hack a few days ago, BusyBox has been running on the T-Mobile G1 mobile phones with Google's Android platform. Now Jay Freeman, alias saurik, goes a step further: in his blog he describes how to install Debian Lenny by way of root access on the device.

comments powered by Disqus

Issue 172/2015

Buy this issue as a PDF

Digital Issue: Price $9.99
(incl. VAT)

News