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Newly Discovered Vulnerability in Android Could Threaten Up To 2 Billion Smartphones as well as Other Devices

by Juha Winter | Aug 19, 2016

Earlier this week, the mobile security company Lookout reported that it had discovered a serious vulnerability in the Linux operating system kernel that also powers the Android mobile OS. The flaw had apparently been introduced into Linux kernel version 3.6 and has found its way into Android 4.4 'KitKat' and all subsequent versions of the world's most popular mobile OS for smartphones and tablets, not to mention smart TVs, set-top boxes, wearables, and other devices that are powered by Android. According to Google, 80% of Android devices run 'KitKat' or a newer version of the OS.

According to Lookout, the vulnerability permits attackers to capture and read unencrypted traffic and also to degrade encrypted traffic in order to spy on unsuspecting victims. What makes the issue different and more concerning to the vast installed base of Android users, up to two billion of them running 4.4 'KitKat' or newer affected versions, is that it doesn't involve any traditional "man-in-the-middle" techniques which require that the network be compromised by the attackers.

Because the vulnerability is in the Linux kernel and not just in Android specifically, many other systems, including a large number enterprise servers running Linux are affected as well. The Linux kernel maintenance team has reportedly already issued a patch to fix the vulnerability, and Google has acknowledged the issue as well, likely incorporating the fix into Android soon.

Stay on top of mobile OS market share and installed base figures through SA's Wireless Smartphone Strategies (WSS) services. We can also provide a deeper level of insight into the various installed bases (e.g., GMS vs. forked Android) upon request.
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