Google researchers poke holes in Galaxy S6 Edge, show OEMs add risky code

The code added by Samsung to the Android firmware on its device had 11 easy-to-find vulnerabilities

Google's security researchers hunted for bugs in Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge phone as part of an experiment to see how vulnerable the code that manufacturers add to Android can be. It's pretty bad.

The researchers found 11 vulnerabilities in Samsung's code that could be exploited to create files with system privileges, steal the user's emails, execute code in the kernel and escalate the privilege of unprivileged applications.

"Overall, we found a substantial number of high-severity issues, though there were some effective security measures on the device which slowed us down," the security researchers said in a blog post. "The weak areas seemed to be device drivers and media processing. We found issues very quickly in these areas through fuzzing and code review."

There were also three high-impact logic flaws that were easy to find and exploit.

One of them was a path traversal vulnerability in a Samsung service called WifiHs20UtilityService. This service, which runs with system privileges, scans for the existence of a ZIP archive file in a specific location on the storage partition and unpacks it. By taking advantage of the flaw an attacker could cause system files to be written in unintended locations.

Another vulnerability was located in the Samsung Email client, which didn't check for authentication when handling intents.

Intents allow applications to pass instructions to one another inside the Android OS. Because the Samsung email client did not authenticate intents, an unprivileged application could instruct it to forward all of the user's emails to a different address.

Multiple issues were discovered in the drivers and image parsing components that were added by Samsung and are not part of vanilla Android. Three of these flaws could be exploited by simply downloading an image on the device.

The goal of the experiment, which lasted a week, was to see if the security mechanisms built into Android could prevent the exploitation of vulnerabilities in manufacturer-specific code.

SELinux, a defense mechanism present in Android by default, made it more difficult to attack the device, the researchers said. However, there were three bugs that enabled exploits to disable SELinux, so it's not effective in all cases.

All of the discovered issues were reported to Samsung, which fixed them before Google's typical 90-day disclosure deadline, except for three that have lower severity and remain unpatched.

"It is promising that the highest severity issues were fixed and updated on-device in a reasonable time frame," the Google researchers said.

Android's code has its own vulnerabilities, which are routinely discovered by security researchers, but Google has built platform-wide defenses and access controls with the goal of making exploitation harder.

Third-party researchers have long warned that the modifications and additions made by device manufacturers to the OS often decrease or defeat the built-in defenses.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?