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A chip flaw left a third of all smartphones vulnerable to spying

A flaw in chips made by MediaTek, a Taiwanese tech giant, potentially allowed threat actors to steal audio and eavesdrop on Android users.

Research published by Israeli cybersecurity company Check Point exposed a flaw in MediaTek’s chips, which would have allowed hackers to listen in on audio on Android devices.

MediaTek is the largest supplier of smartphone chips, with 43% of the smartphone market under its control.

The vulnerability left devices open to remote spying via device microphone claim authors of the report. The flaw allowed a local privilege escalation attack from a third-party application, which means that malicious code could access the device’s audio.

However, malign actors would have had malware installed on the target’s device to exploit the vulnerabilities. That’s necessary for the attacker to gain access to MediaTek’s audio firmware and control how the audio processor interacts with Android OS.

“Since the DSP firmware has access to the audio data flow, a malformed IPI message could potentially be used by a local attacker to do privilege escalation, and theoretically eavesdrop on the mobile phone’s user,” writes Slava Makkaveev, author of the report.

The authors of the report found out about the exploit by reverse-engineering MediaTek’s audio DSP firmware. MediaTek had fixed the issues with DSP firmware in October 2021. However, the exploit could have been used to spy on Android users before MediaTek fixed it.

Recently, researchers at Doctor Web found dozens of games on Huawei’s AppGallery store infected with the Android.Cynos.7.origin trojan, which is designed to collect users’ device data and phone numbers.

At least 9,300,000 users have downloaded and installed these malicious games on their Android devices.

The infections were discovered by a team of malware analysts at antivirus firm Doctor Web, who found a whopping 190 games on the AppGallery store compromised by the trojan, with more than 9,300,000 collective installs.

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