Bitcoin wallets on Android at risk of theft, developers say

Users have been advised to generate a new address with a repaired random number generator

Bitcoin wallets on Android are vulnerable to theft because of problems in a component that generates secure random numbers, developers said.

The problem is said to be in the Android operating system and will affect bitcoin wallets generated by an Android app.

Apps for which the user does not control the private keys are not affected, developers at Bitcoin.org wrote in a post on Sunday. Exchange front-ends like Coinbase or Mt. Gox apps are, for example, unaffected by the issue as the private keys are not generated on the user's Android phone.

Bitcoin uses public-key cryptography so that each address is associated with a pair of mathematically linked public and private keys that are held in the wallet. The user signs a transaction to transfer bitcoins to somebody else with the private key, and the signature is validated using the public key.

"We recently learned that a component of Android responsible for generating secure random numbers contains critical weaknesses, that render all Android wallets generated to date vulnerable to theft," the developers wrote.

In an alert on a Bitcoin developer forum, software developer Mike Hearn reported that the Android implementation of the Java SecureRandom class contains a number of serious vulnerabilities. "As a result all private keys generated on Android phones/tablets are weak and some signatures have been observed to have colliding R values, allowing the private key to be solved and money to be stolen," he added.

Some of the affected wallets like Bitcoin Wallet, BitcoinSpinner, Mycelium Wallet and Blockchain.info are in various stages of preparing updates that will resolve the issue, according to the developers at Bitcoin.org.

The developers have recommended that users generate a new address with a repaired random number generator and then send all the money in the wallet back to themselves. "If you use an Android wallet then we strongly recommend you to upgrade to the latest version available in the Play Store as soon as one becomes available," according to the post. "Once your wallet is rotated, you will need to contact anyone who has stored addresses generated by your phone and give them a new one." Key rotation on Bitcoin Wallet will happen automatically soon after users upgrade, and old addresses marked as insecure in the address book.

The virtual currency that can be transferred worldwide using peer-to-peer software is facing bids to regulate it, including in the U.S. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the U.S Department of the Treasury, for example, ruled in March that Bitcoin exchanges and administrators are Money Services Businesses (MSBs) and must comply with anti-money laundering regulations.

New York Department of Financial Services has issued subpoenas to about 24 companies associated with bitcoin as part of an investigation into the virtual currency industry, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter. A memo conveying concern about the companies' non-compliance with state money transmission laws is expected Monday, the newspaper said.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Bitcoin.orgInternet-based applications and servicesFinancial Crimes Enforcement Networke-commercesecurityinternet

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?