May 18, 2020

[Report] 178 Million Android Phones At Risk in Middle East and Africa

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[Report] 178 Million Android Phones At Risk in Middle East and Africa

More than 94 percent of popular Android applications used in the Middle East and Africa are potentially vulnerable, amounting to 178 million devices according to Palo Alto Networks.  

Android Internal Storage is a protected area that Android-based applications use to store private information, including usernames and passwords. However, an attacker may be able to steal sensitive information from most of the applications on an Android device using the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) backup/restore function.

In addition, most of the security enhancements added by Google to prevent this type of attack can be bypassed.

Saeed Agha, General Manager - Middle East, Palo Alto Networks, said: “We encourage users to be aware and Google to take a closer look at this storage weakness in Android. Given Android’s place as the region’s most popular mobile operating system, millions of users are potentially at risk here in the Middle East and Africa.”

Key Details:

  1. In the Middle East & Africa, Android has the largest market share of all platforms, at 40 percent.
  2. Anyone using a device running version 4.0 of Android – about 85 percent of Android systems in use today in the Middle East – is potentially vulnerable
  3. Of the estimated 525.8 million mobile phone owners is the Middle East and Africa, this equates to over 178 million phones at risk in the Middle East and Africa.
  4. To use ADB, an attacker would need physical access to the device, whether borrowing or stealing it from the user; an attacker could also take control of a system to which the device is connected via USB
  5. Over 94 percent of popular Android applications, including pre-installed email and browser applications, use the backup system, meaning users are vulnerable
  6. Many Android applications will store user passwords in plain text in Android Internal Storage, meaning almost all popular e-mail clients, FTP clients and SSH client applications are vulnerable
  7. Google has set the default for applications to allow back-ups; application developers are responsible for disabling the feature or otherwise restricting backups; however, the high percentage of applications that have not disabled or restricted backups suggests many developers are unaware of the risks

Palo Alto Networks recommends Android users disable USB debugging when not needed, and application developers to protect Android users by setting android:allowBackup to false in each Android application’s AndroidManifest.xml file or restricting backups from including sensitive information using a BackupAgent.

 

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