Android: hundreds of flaws in Qualcomm processors!

Researchers at cybersecurity company Check Point have discovered hundreds of flaws in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoCs that power 40% of smartphones. A malicious application could use the microphone to unwittingly record the user, access their messages, photos, or install malware that cannot be removed.

The increasing complexity of our smartphones multiplies not only their functionality, but also the number of attack vectors. Cybersecurity company Check Point focused on the heart of mobile devices – the processor . Researchers have uncovered more than 400 flaws in chips Snapdragon from Qualcomm , which equip more than 40% of the smartphones on the market, specifically those equipped with the operating system mobile Android .

Up to 40% of smartphones contain more than 400 flaws.  © Qualcomm

These ARM chips are commonly referred to as processors, but this is actually a misnomer. The exact term is SoC ( System on a Chip ) or “system on a chip”. The SoC contains the central processor with its multiple cores, but also the cache memory , a graphics chip , as well as other subsystems that manage the data connection, wireless technologies ( Wi-Fi , Bluetooth ), and much more. others.

The  Digital Signal Processors finger pointing

Researchers were interested in a very specific, and rarely studied, subsystem called DSP ( Digital Signal Processor ). It is a processor specializing in digital signal processing , and generally described as a complete computer on a chip. In Snapdragon SoCs, DSPs are used to manage fast charging , video recording, augmented reality or many audio functions.

The problem with DSPs is their “black box” operation, making it impossible to analyze their operation in detail. They are integrated into the SoC and operate using a code that Qualcomm keeps secret. Applications that use DSPs are built with Qualcomm’s Hexagon SDK tools. It was the bugs in these tools that enabled researchers to detect the many vulnerabilities .

All smartphones equipped with a Snapdragon SoC concerned

Among the hundreds of faults thus revealed, the researchers discovered the possibility of turning on the microphone , of recording calls, but also of transmitting photos, videos and GPS coordinates , entirely without the user’s knowledge. Targeted attacks can take the device completely out of service, or even embed malware that cannot be detected and removed. Qualcomm said it had sent data to manufacturers to limit the impact of these flaws. However, with the Android ecosystem being very fragmented, many users might not see the updates for several months or even years.

In parallel with the security problems of Qualcomm chips, Chinese researchers Sourcell Xu and Xin Xin have discovered a ” zero-day  ” flaw  in the Bluetooth protocol  of Android devices. Called BlueRepli, it allows you to connect to a smartphone by pretending to be a device already known.

The smartphone then displays no pairing request, and the user is not notified of the connection. Hackers can thus gain access to the contacts saved on the device, the call log and even the content of SMS . According to the researchers, it would even be possible to send text messages without the user’s knowledge on devices from a particular manufacturer, which

These new flaws show once again how important it is to install security updates for smartphones as soon as they become available, and to avoid apps that are not needed, especially if they are not from a trusted source like the Play Store of Google .