Hundreds of millions of Android users exposed to hack due to CVE-2020-8913

Pierluigi Paganini December 04, 2020

Hundreds of millions of Android users are potentially exposed to the risk of hack due to the use of Android Play Core Library versions vulnerable to CVE-2020-8913

The CVE-2020-8913 flaw is a local, arbitrary code execution vulnerability that resides exists in the SplitCompat.install endpoint in Android’s Play Core Library. The vulnerability is rated 8.8 out of 10.0 and impacts Android’s Play Core Library versions prior to 1.7.2.

A threat actor could create an apk to targets a specific application. Upon installing the apk, the attacker could perform a broad range of malicious activities, including execute code as the targeted application and access the targeted application’s data on the victims’ Android devices.

The bad news is that several popular Android apps are still using versions of Google’s app update library that are affected by the CVE-2020-8913 flaw, millions of users at potentially at risk of a cyber attack.

The list of vulnerable apps is long and includes OkCupid, MS Edge, Xrecorder, Yango Pro, and PowerDirector, are still vulnerable and can be hijacked to steal sensitive data, such as passwords, financial details, and e-mails.

The development teams behind some popular apps like Viber, Meetup, Cisco, Grindr, Moovit, Cisco Teams, and have updated the library in their apps after being notified by Check Point.

Experts from Check Point Research discovered that many third-party app developers are yet to update the Play Core library into their apps despite Google addressed the CVE-2020-8913 in March.

“Since the vulnerability was patched in April, why is there cause for concern now? The answer is because the patch needs to be pushed by the developers into the application. Unlike server-side vulnerabilities, where the vulnerability is patched completely once the patch is applied to the server, for client-side vulnerabilities, each developer needs to grab the latest version of the library and insert it into the application.” reads the post published by Check Point.

The Play Core Library is the app’s runtime interface with the Google Play Store, it allows to download additional language resources, manage the delivery of feature modules, manage the delivery of asset packs, trigger in-app updates, request in-app reviews.

So, basically, the Google Play Core Library is a gateway for interacting with Google Play Services from within the application itself, starting from dynamic code loading (such as downloading additional levels only when needed), to delivering locale-specific resources, to interacting with Google Play’s review mechanisms.

The flaw was first documented by researchers from Oversecured.

“After further careful research, it emerged that the verified-splits folder contains verified apks with the current app’s signature, which are no longer verified in the future. When a file in that folder starts with a config. prefix, it will be added to the app’s runtime ClassLoader automatically.” reads the analysis published by Oversecured. “Using that weakness, the attacker can create a class implementing e.g. the Parcelable interface and containing malicious code and send their instances to the affected app, meaning the createFromParcel(…) method will be executed in their context during deserialization leading to local code execution.”

The impact and magnitude of successful exploitation of this flaw are very serious, attackers can trigger it injects code into banking applications to grab credentials, and at the same time have SMS permissions to steal the two-factor authentication (2FA) codes, to spy on chat apps, spy on users’ locations, and tamper with enterprise apps.

Researchers from Check Point reported that of the 13% of Google Play applications analyzed in the month of September 2020, 8% were running a vulnerable variant of the library.

The researchers also published a proof-of-concept that shows how to use a vulnerable version of the Google Chrome app to steal the bookmarks stored in the browser.

“We’re estimating that hundreds of millions of Android users are at security risk,” Check Point’s Manager of Mobile Research, Aviran Hazum, said. “Although Google implemented a patch, many apps are still using outdated Play Core libraries. The vulnerability CVE-2020-8913 is highly dangerous, [and] the attack possibilities here are only limited by a threat actor’s imagination.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, malware)

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