Freaky Privilege Escalation Attack

Mar 25, 2014

A new class of problems lets a malicious app pre-configure an invisible privilege update.

Security researchers at Indiana University and Microsoft Corporation have uncovered a new category of vulnerabilities affecting Android operating systems. The new vulnerabilities -- known as Pileup problems (short for Privilege Escalation through Update) -- are thought to affect every Android device: up to a billion devices around the world.
A Pileup vulnerability allows a malicious application to pre-configure a carefully selected set of privileges that will be enabled when the system updates to a new version. When the system updates, the privileges escalate in a manner that is invisible to the user.
The researchers discovered these Pileup flaws after an extensive analysis of Android Package Management Service. The issues affect all official Android versions and 3,000 customized versions. The research team developed a tool called SecUP that "deploys a scanner on the user's device to capture the malicious apps designed to exploit Pileup vulnerabilities." 

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