Mon, Apr 14, 2014 - Page 13 News List

Millions of Android devices vulnerable to Heartbleed

OPERATING AT RISK:Handset makers and wireless carriers have to update the system software, Google said, but experts said individual users face little danger


Millions of smartphones and tablets running Google Inc’s Android operating system have the Heartbleed software bug.

While Google said in a blog post on Wednesday last week that all versions of Android are immune to the flaw, it added that the “limited exception” was one version dubbed 4.1.1, which was released in 2012.

Security researchers said that version of Android is still used in millions of smartphones and tablets, including popular models made by Samsung Electronics Co, HTC Corp (宏達電) and other manufacturers. Google statistics show that 34 percent of Android devices use variations of the 4.1 software. The company said that less than 10 percent of active devices are vulnerable.

Over 900 million Android devices have been activated worldwide.

The Heartbleed vulnerability was made public last week and can expose people to hacking of their passwords and other information. While a fix was simultaneously made available and quickly implemented by the majority of Internet properties that were vulnerable to the bug, there is no easy solution for Android gadgets that carry the flaw, security experts said.

Even though Google has provided a patch, the company said it is up to handset makers and wireless carriers to update the devices.

“One of the major issues with Android is the update cycle is really long,” said Michael Shaulov, chief executive officer and co-founder of Lacoon Security Ltd, a cybersecurity company focused on advanced mobile threats.

“The device manufacturers and the carriers need to do something with the patch, and that’s usually a really long process,” he added.

Microsoft Corp said on Friday that the Windows and Windows Phone operating systems and most services are not impacted.

“A few services continue to be reviewed and updated with further protections,” Microsoft Trustworthy Computing director Tracey Pretorius wrote in an e-mailed statement.

Apple Inc did not respond to messages for comment.

The Heartbleed bug, which was discovered by researchers from Google and a Finnish company called Codenomicon, affects OpenSSL, a type of open-source encryption used by as many as 66 percent of all active Internet sites.

Still, there are no signs that hackers are trying to attack Android devices through the vulnerability, as it would be complicated to set up and the success rate would be low, said Marc Rogers, principal security researcher at the San Francisco-based Lookout Inc.

Individual devices are less attractive because they need to be targeted one-by-one, he said.

“Given that the server attack affects such a larger number of devices and is so much easier to carry out, we don’t expect to see any attacks against devices until after the server attacks have been completely exhausted,” Rogers wrote in an e-mail.

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