Some Android OEMs Reportedly Skipping Security Patches

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SRL researchers Nohl and Jakob Lell will also present their study at the Hack in the Box security conference in Amsterdam today.

What I personally can not understand is why companies waste resources on creating "fake" updates that only change the level of patches indicated. They found out that many Android phone vendors fail to make patches available to their users, or delay their release for months. Monthly patches definitely help, but there are general measures in place to ensure that all Android phones have some level of enhanced security. And while this seems like a tough job to keep up with as a consumer - the onus is on the software makers - the authors of the report stated that the app SnoopSnitch will allow you determine if your updates cover the wide swath of patches necessary to stay as safe as possible.

As noted by Wired, there are a few potential reasons for why these phones don't have the latest security updates, other than manufacturers trying to pass their devices off as being more secure than they actually are.

To sum up the findings, vendors such as Google, Sony, Samsung, Wiki on an average missed between 0-1 patches. SRL notes that MediaTek was the biggest offender for chip-level patch omissions - those ended up going up the chain to the OEMs and, thus, were missing from the overall software updates. SRL says that it had tested the firmware on around 1,200 Android phones, looking for whether or not patches had been applied, which led to it finding devices that had changed the dates forward without actually adding the patches in. "That's deliberate deception, and it's not very common", SRL founder Karsten Nohl told Wired.

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The list includes major Android phone makers like Google, Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus, Sony, LG, Huawei, Nokia, Motorola, HTC, ZTE and TCL.

Yet, with a growing amount of malicious code coming from more sophisticated actors, those involved in the Android software development chain shouldn't chance missing out on patches in the case that a string of holes leads to a flawless strike. In certain occasions, some devices don't receive those at all.

The company also argued that some missing patches could be to do with a specific phone not offering an affected feature, or a feature being removed entirely as opposed to patching it.

While criminals typically rely on social engineering to attempt to steal data from users, through malicious apps and the like, state-sponsored actors are more likely to exploit missed patches as part of their attacks using previously unknown methods, the researchers say. All that said, Google has reportedly pointed out some details which are worth considering - some of the devices may not have been Android certified devices which means they wouldn't be offering the same standard of security updates as Google and other more trusted OEMs. "These layers of security-combined with the tremendous diversity of the Android ecosystem-contribute to the researchers' conclusions that remote exploitation of Android devices remains challenging".

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