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Largest Mobile Chipset Manufacturers used Vulnerable Audio Decoder, 2/3 of Android Users’ Privacy around the World were at Risk

April 2022 by Check Point Research (CPR)

Check Point Research (CPR) identified vulnerabilities in the audio decoders of Qualcomm and MediaTek, the two largest chip manufacturers. Left unpatched, the vulnerabilities could have led an attacker to remotely get access to media and audio conversations. CPR estimates that over two-thirds of the world’s phones were vulnerable at some point. The vulnerable code is based on code shared by Apple 11 years ago.

• Vulnerabilities could be used by an attacker for remote code execution attack (RCE) on a mobile device through a malformed audio file
• Impact of an RCE vulnerability can range from malware execution to an attacker gaining control over a user’s multimedia data, including streaming from a compromised machine’s camera.
• In addition, an unprivileged Android app could use these vulnerabilities to escalate its privileges and gain access to media data and user conversations
• CPR responsibly disclosed findings to Qualcomm and MediaTek, who issued fixes

Check Point Research (CPR) identified a set of security vulnerabilities that could have been used for malicious remote code execution on two-thirds of the world’s mobile devices. The vulnerabilities affected Android smartphones that are powered by chips from MediaTek and Qualcomm, the two largest mobile chipset manufacturers.

Vulnerabilities Traced to MediaTek and Qualcomm Audio Decoders

Specifically, the vulnerabilities were found in Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC), also known as Apple Lossless. ALAC is an audio coding format, developed by Apple Inc. and first introduced in 2004 for lossless data compression of digital music. In late 2011 Apple made the codec open source. Since then, the ALAC format has been embedded in many non-Apple audio playback devices and programs, including Android-based smartphones, Linux and Windows media players and converters. Since then Apple has been updating the proprietary version of the decoder several times, fixing and patching security issues, but the shared code has not been patched since 2011. CPR discovered that Qualcomm and MediaTek ported the vulnerable ALAC code into their audio decoders.

Responsible Disclosure

Check Point Research responsibly disclosed the information to MediaTek and Qualcomm and worked closely in collaboration with both vendors to make sure these vulnerabilities were fixed. MediaTek assigned CVE-2021-0674 and CVE-2021-0675 to the ALAC issues. The vulnerabilities were already fixed and published in the December 2021 MediaTek Security Bulletin. Qualcomm released the patch for CVE-2021-30351 in the December 2021 Qualcomm Security Bulletin. CPR enabled time for users to apply the patches.

Slava Makkaveev, Reverse Engineering & Security Research, at Check Point Research: "We’ve discovered a set of vulnerabilities that could be used for remote execution and privilege escalation on two-thirds of the world’s mobile devices. The vulnerabilities were easily exploitable. A threat actor could have sent a song (media file) and when played by a potential victim, it could have injected code in the privileged media service. The threat actor could have seen what the mobile phone user sees on their phone. In our proof of concept, we were able to steal the phone’s camera stream. What is the most sensitive information on your phone? I think it’s your media: audio and videos. An attacker could have stolen that through these vulnerabilities. The vulnerable decoder is based on the code shared by Apple 11 years ago.”

Cyber Safety Guidance

Update your phone. Each month Google issues the security update.




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