Kernel vulnerability places Samsung devices at risk

Kernel vulnerability places Samsung devices at risk

Summary: A vulnerability found in the kernel of many Samsung devices has opened devices such as the Galaxy S2, S3, Note 2, and Note 10.1 up to abuse by hackers.

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A vulnerability that allows any app to access the RAM on Samsung devices has been found by developers who were digging into the kernel for Samsung's Exynos systems.

Exynos is the ARM-based system on chip that's typically found in Samsung's mobile devices and tablets.

XDA Developers member alephzain first brought up the vulnerability on the site's forum, claiming that access to the device's physical memory is read-and-write enabled by all users.

With the ability to read and write to memory at will, alephzain said that any application could dump the contents of the device's RAM and/or inject arbitrary code into the kernel. Such manipulations of memory could potentially allow an attacker to extract data and forward it elsewhere, or modify data to present the user with false data while the application does something else. The vulnerability itself also allows devices to be rooted.

Alephzain has named a couple of the devices that are vulnerable, and others have been able to independently verify that the issue exists. In particular, another developer on the forum, Chainfire, has released an application that uses the vulnerability to gain root privileges, and has listed which devices are currently known to work.

These devices use the Exynos 4210 or 4412 system on chip and include:

  • Samsung Galaxy S2 GT-I9100

  • Samsung Galaxy S3 GT-I9300

  • Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE GT-I9305

  • Samsung Galaxy Note GT-N7000

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 2 GT-N7100

  • Verizon-based Samsung Galaxy Note 2 SCH-I605

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Plus GT-P6210

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 GT-N8000

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 GT-N8010

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 GT-N8020.

Although the Google Nexus 10 uses the Exynos platform, it has been confirmed as not being affected, as it uses the Exynos 5250.

Not everyone has agreed with how the vulnerability was made public, nor the public availability of code that allows it to be exploited. Given the late notice that manufacturers were given, forum member supercurio has taken it upon himself to release a quick fix for the vulnerability while the manufacturers determine how best to tackle the issue.

Topics: Security, Android, Mobility, Processors, Samsung, Tablets, ARM

Michael Lee

About Michael Lee

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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5 comments
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  • Wouldn't this be a

    processor based exploit and not a kernel based. ? ?
    Anthony E
    • Nope

      It's a bug in the kernel space memory driver.

      /dev/exynos-mem

      /system/lib/hw/camera.smdk4x12.so
      /system/lib/hw/gralloc.smdk4x12.so
      /system/lib/libhdmi.so
      Alan Smithie
  • This is good news

    At least now they have a good enough excuse to update the devices already. I love Samsung but I hate it how ex-flagship devices are neglected, with no updates or source-code releases. Hopefully this will make them release 4.2 or at lease the sources for 4.1.2 for the S2 and other devices.
    [deXter]
    • By the way, it can be fixed

      If you follow the link and install Chainfire's app, it can root your device and fix the exploit.

      Worry about rooting? Don't, it includes a UAC like system where you can deny all apps root access if/when they request it. The other apps can't get root easily if you fix the exploit and don't give them the permission.

      No need to worry if you are careful.
      Natanael_L
  • Too slow

    Fix for this was released day before this article...too slow ZDNet
    legokangpalla