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Android 14 introduces first-of-its-kind mobile connectivity security measures

Android 14 introduces first-of-its-kind mobile connectivity security measures

2023-08-08 16:07:44

Android is the primary cellular working system to introduce superior mobile safety mitigations for each customers and enterprises. Android 14 introduces help for IT directors to disable 2G help of their managed gadget fleet. Android 14 additionally introduces a characteristic that disables help for null-ciphered mobile connectivity.

Hardening community safety on Android

The Android Safety Mannequin assumes that every one networks are hostile to maintain customers protected from community packet injection, tampering, or eavesdropping on person site visitors. Android doesn’t depend on link-layer encryption to handle this menace mannequin. As a substitute, Android establishes that every one community site visitors must be end-to-end encrypted (E2EE).

When a person connects to mobile networks for his or her communications (knowledge, voice, or SMS), because of the distinctive nature of mobile telephony, the hyperlink layer presents distinctive safety and privateness challenges. False Base Stations (FBS) and Stingrays exploit weaknesses in mobile telephony requirements to trigger hurt to customers. Moreover, a smartphone can’t reliably know the legitimacy of the cellular base station earlier than trying to hook up with it. Attackers exploit this in various methods, starting from site visitors interception and malware sideloading, to classy dragnet surveillance.

Recognizing the far reaching implications of those assault vectors, particularly for at-risk customers, Android has prioritized hardening mobile telephony. We’re tackling well-known insecurities such because the risk presented by 2G networks, the chance offered by null ciphers, different false base station (FBS) threats, and baseband hardening with our ecosystem partners.

2G and a historical past of inherent safety threat

The cellular ecosystem is quickly adopting 5G, the newest wi-fi commonplace for cellular, and plenty of carriers have began to show down 2G service. In the USA, for instance, most main carriers have shut down 2G networks. Nonetheless, all current cellular units nonetheless have help for 2G. In consequence, when obtainable, any cellular gadget will connect with a 2G community. This happens robotically when 2G is the one community obtainable, however this can be remotely triggered in a malicious assault, silently inducing devices to downgrade to 2G-only connectivity and thus, ignoring any non-2G community. This habits occurs no matter whether or not native operators have already sundown their 2G infrastructure.

2G networks, first applied in 1991, don’t present the identical stage of safety as subsequent cellular generations do. Most notably, 2G networks primarily based on the World System for Cellular Communications (GSM) commonplace lack mutual authentication, which allows trivial Particular person-in-the-Center assaults. Furthermore, since 2010, safety researchers have demonstrated trivial over-the-air interception and decryption of 2G site visitors.

The out of date safety of 2G networks, mixed with the power to silently downgrade the connectivity of a tool from each 5G and 4G right down to 2G, is the most common use of FBSs, IMSI catchers and Stingrays.

Stingrays are obscure but very highly effective surveillance and interception instruments which have been leveraged in a number of situations, starting from probably sideloading Pegasus malware into journalist phones to a sophisticated phishing scheme that allegedly impacted tons of of 1000’s of customers with a single FBS. This Stingray-based fraud attack, which doubtless downgraded gadget’s connections to 2G to inject SMSishing payloads, has highlighted the dangers of 2G connectivity.

To deal with this threat, Android 12 launched a new feature that allows customers to disable 2G on the modem stage. Pixel 6 was the first device to adopt this characteristic and it’s now supported by all Android units that conform to Radio HAL 1.6+. This characteristic was fastidiously designed to make sure that customers usually are not impacted when making emergency calls.

Mitigating 2G safety dangers for enterprises

The business acknowledged the numerous safety and privateness advantages and influence of this characteristic for at-risk customers, and we acknowledged how vital disabling 2G is also for our Android Enterprise clients.

Enterprises that use smartphones and tablets require sturdy safety to safeguard delicate knowledge and Mental Property. Android Enterprise gives sturdy administration controls for connectivity security capabilities, together with the power to disable WiFi, Bluetooth, and even data signaling over USB. Beginning in Android 14, enterprise clients and authorities businesses managing units utilizing Android Enterprise will be capable of limit a tool’s means to downgrade to 2G connectivity.

The 2G safety enterprise management in Android 14 allows our clients to configure cellular connectivity in accordance with their threat mannequin, permitting them to guard their managed units from 2G site visitors interception, Particular person-in-the-Center assaults, and different 2G-based threats. IT directors can configure this safety as crucial, at all times conserving the 2G radio off or guaranteeing workers are protected when touring to particular high-risk areas.

These new capabilities are a part of the excellent set of 200+ administration controls that Android gives IT directors by way of Android Enterprise. Android Enterprise additionally gives complete audit logging with over 80 occasions together with these new administration controls. Audit logs are a vital a part of any group’s safety and compliance technique. They supply an in depth report of all exercise on a system, which can be utilized to trace down unauthorized entry, establish safety breaches, and troubleshoot system issues.

Additionally in Android 14

The upcoming Android launch additionally tackles the chance of cellular null ciphers. Though all IP-based person site visitors is protected and E2EE by the Android platform, mobile networks expose circuit-switched voice and SMS site visitors. These two specific site visitors varieties are strictly protected solely by the mobile hyperlink layer cipher, which is totally managed by the community with out transparency to the person. In different phrases, the community decides whether or not site visitors is encrypted and the person has no visibility into whether or not it’s being encrypted.

Recent reports recognized utilization of null ciphers in industrial networks, which exposes person voice and SMS site visitors (comparable to One-Time Password) to trivial over the air interception. Furthermore, some industrial Stingrays present performance to trick units into believing ciphering is just not supported by the community, thus downgrading the connection to a null cipher and enabling site visitors interception.

Android 14 introduces a person choice to disable help, on the modem-level, for null-ciphered connections. Equally to 2G controls, it’s nonetheless attainable to put emergency calls over an unciphered connection. This performance will drastically enhance communication privateness for units that undertake the newest radio {hardware} abstraction layer (HAL). We anticipate this new connectivity safety characteristic to be obtainable in additional units over the subsequent few years as it’s adopted by Android OEMs.

See Also

Persevering with to associate to lift the business bar for mobile safety

Alongside our Android-specific work, the staff is commonly concerned within the improvement and enchancment of mobile safety requirements. We actively take part in requirements our bodies comparable to GSMA Fraud and Security Group in addition to the third Technology Partnership Mission (3GPP), significantly its safety and privateness group (SA3). Our long-term purpose is to render FBS threats out of date.

Specifically, Android safety is main a brand new initiative inside GSMA’s Fraud and Safety Group (FASG) to discover the feasibility of contemporary id, belief and entry management strategies that will allow radically hardening the safety of telco networks.

Our efforts to harden mobile connectivity undertake Android’s defense-in-depth technique. We commonly associate with different inside Google groups as properly, together with the Android Pink Workforce and our Vulnerability Rewards Program.

Furthermore, in alignment with Android’s openness in safety, we actively associate with prime tutorial teams in mobile safety analysis. For instance, in 2022 we funded by way of our Android Safety and Privateness Analysis grant (ASPIRE) a mission to develop a proof-of-concept to judge mobile connectivity hardening in smartphones. The tutorial staff offered the outcome of that mission within the final ACM Conference on Security and Privacy in Wireless and Mobile Networks.

The safety journey continues

Consumer safety and privateness, which incorporates the protection of all person communications, is a precedence on Android. With upcoming Android releases, we are going to proceed so as to add extra options to harden the platform in opposition to mobile safety threats.

We sit up for discussing the way forward for telco community safety with our ecosystem and business companions and standardization our bodies. We may even proceed to associate with tutorial establishments to unravel complicated issues in community safety. We see great alternatives to curb FBS threats, and we’re excited to work with the broader business to unravel them.

Particular due to our colleagues who have been instrumental in supporting our mobile community safety efforts: Nataliya Stanetsky, Robert Greenwalt, Jayachandran C, Gil Cukierman, Dominik Maier, Alex Ross, Il-Sung Lee, Kevin Deus, Farzan Karimi, Xuan Xing, Wes Johnson, Thiébaud Weksteen, Pauline Anthonysamy, Liz Louis, Alex Johnston, Kholoud Mohamed, Pavel Grafov

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