McAfee Shows Security Flaws of Smartphones (Especially Android Devices) | News | ChannelWorld.in

McAfee Shows Security Flaws of Smartphones (Especially Android Devices)

Added on Oct 29, 2012 by Rob Enderle

McAfee Shows Security Flaws of Smartphones, Android DevicesThis week at McAfee Focus the security vendor pounded home one point that it really didn't think attendees understood: Virtually every smartphone can compromise enterprise security. However, I walked away with a vastly bigger concern: enterprise security practices, short of confiscating smartphones entirely, may actually be making us more vulnerable.

One of the jobs I held at IBM was in the internal audit department, and one of the skills I seemed to be best at was finding ways to successfully breach security that others thought was bulletproof. My last audit-and this is likely why it was my last audit-took me into the secure safe of a top IBM executive and gave me access to files that only two or three people in the world had ever seen. After that, security was my specialty, and ever since I've been a security analyst or had security analysts report to me.

I've always had a knack for being able to look at a security practice and figure out how it could be successfully breached. That's why I was so interested in what McAfee had to say this week about operating system and smartphone security.

Scary Landscape: Boot Files All Too Easy to Access

McAfee CTO Mike Fey demonstrated a proof of concept attack tool the company has developed to showcase just how easy it is to compromise current platforms. Most companies have been penetrated already, he says, with data analytics tools secretly installed so attackers can get a general sense of which user has the most systems authority or, in the case of banking, who moves the most cash. That's who attackers target.

Typically, the attackers' goals are to do a lot of damage, get access to confidential information or transfer cash. As an example, McAFee showcased a man-in-the-middle attack in which the browser session is hijacked and the user's ID, password and challenge question answers are captured. From there, a cash transfer is executed, and the user is pointed to a false account screen that doesn't show the transfer. This way, the user can't stop the order until the cash is beyond retrieval.

A scarier demonstration followed. Starting with a Windows 7 PC, McAfee accessed the boot files and successfully reformatted the drive while the unsuspecting user was online. This, of course, would result in a recovery event-and if you can reformat the system, then there is little else you can't do with it, even if you're not in Admin mode.

The demo then moved to a Mac. This time, McAfee corrupted the firmware, which would not only destroy the data but require the machine be sent back to Apple for repair, since Apple doesn't let IT departments or users flash firmware themselves. The scariest scenario of, though, involved Android. While the Windows and Mac attacks seemed complex, the Android attack was comparatively easy, and McAfee got the hacked product to overheat and cook itself, destroying the hardware.

McAfee also argued that attacks such as this are often associated with root kits. That makes it hard for security software that doesn't have a fixed hardware component to address this successfully. While this was clearly a pitch for Deep Defender, which McAFee co-developed with parent company Intel and which is only made available to Windows machines at large business, it is interesting to note that the attack would not have worked on Windows 8. That showcased (intentionally or otherwise) one of the more endearing aspects of the new operating system: secure boot partition.

Smartphone Security Leaves a Lot to Be Desired

However, there is no Deep Defender for smartphones, though McAfee has released mobile security software for Android devices. All you need is to install a vulnerability in a compelling free app. Get a target to install the app, then attack the vulnerability to access whatever's on the device (passwords, IDs, addresses, bank account numbers and so on) and/or activate camera and microphone functionality to essentially turn the device into a spy. 
This is when I had my "A-ha!" moment. While you can protect, to some extent, a business phone, how many employees have personal phones on the corporate network that you don't know about? Let's say I wanted to bug a politician, executive, security officer, teacher, competitor, ex-spouse, rival…you get the point. I just need to get them to use a compromised phone; if they carry two, I can go after their personal phone. I could make the compromised app look like some sort of promotion and, once it's installed, turn that phone into a bug that's constantly taking pictures or recording every meeting and conversation, even if the phone isn't used for that particular call. I could try for a drive-by download, too.

While curated app stores like the Apple and Microsoft stores actively look for malware, they don't aggressively check for bugs and wouldn't know where to look for a creative exploit. If I build an app that is never widely sold or used, the chance of the exploit being found is low. If I root the phone, too, I can likely destroy the forensic data that would let an investigator figure out how this happened.

This makes me wonder how many people on the Mitt Romney and Barack Obama campaign teams have phones that are broadcasting confidential information. How many police departments have been compromised? How many IT departments, bankers and private citizens don't know they are broadcasting?

This goes beyond putting a security software and a security policy in place. This is making sure a device can't be rooted-or, failing that, this is preventing it from even going into any insecure area.

As another McAFee Focus attendees pointed out, it's probably wise to avoid banking on your smartphone and talking about anything sensitive in range of your phone. If someone sends you a free phone, check and double-check the authenticity of the source before you use it. It's something to keep in mind as holiday shopping season starts.

Rob Enderle is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group. Previously, he was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group. Prior to that he worked for IBM and held positions in Internal Audit, Competitive Analysis, Marketing, Finance and Security. Currently, Enderle writes on emerging technology, security and Linux for a variety of publications and appears on national news TV shows that include CNBC, FOX, Bloomberg and NPR.

Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google +.

Read more about smartphones in CIO's Smartphones Drilldown.

All About Windows 10

The Windows 10 upgrade: Who should do it, who could wait

The day is finally here: Windows 10's launch. And if you haven't been participating in Microsoft's Windows Insider previews, you have a single, simple question: Should I upgrade to Windows 10?

Windows 10 vs. Windows 8: Performance benchmarks show a close battle for fastest

Windows 10 performance is one of the hardest things to nail down right now. Here are some initial tests.

Windows 10 installation files already sneaking onto Windows 7 and 8 PCs

Starting around midnight Eastern time on Wednesday, June 29, 2015 Windows 10 will start rolling out to Windows Insider members.

Windows 10: Fact vs. fiction

It's a few days before Windows 10 is officially slated to drop, and still, confusion abounds. Worse, many fallacies regarding Microsoft's plans around upgrades and support for Win10 remain in circulation, despite efforts to dispel them.

IT hears the siren call of free Windows 10 upgrades

Even enterprise IT professionals are taken with Microsoft's free upgrade offer to Windows 10, according to a recently-released survey by Spiceworks.

ChannelWorld Research

Why Channels Have Changed Their Go-to-Market Strategy in Six Months

According to our SOTM Mid-Year Survey, a majority of Indian channels said their top go-to-market strategy was to offer services in a recurring revenue model—not introducing new technologies, like SMAC, which was their top GTM strategy six months ago.

SOTM Mid-Year Survey 2015: Your Roadmap for the Next 6 Months

According to the survey, the next six months of the year are going to be eventful. Here are the challenges, emerging technologies and trends that will shape the rest of the year for you.

Big Data, Mobility Top Partners’ Wish List: SOTM Mid-Year Survey 2015

According to the ChannelWorld's State of the Mart Mid-Year Survey (SOTM) 2015, big data is the way to go for the enterprise channels for the second half of this year, with 34 percent partners planning to invest in it.

Private Cloud Still Remains a ‘Safe Bet’ for Partners: SOTM Survey 2015

According to the STOM 2015 survey, channel partners who are into cloud computing feel that 42 percent of their business will be generated by private cloud.

Partners Pin Hope on Government, Expects IT Spend to Grow: SOTM Mid-Year Survey 2015

According to the ChannelWorld's State of the Mart Mid-Year survey (SOTM) 2015, 30 percent of the channel partners believe that IT spend in the government sector is likely to increase in next six months.

No More Baby Steps, Partners Ready to ‘Risk’ Gambling with Disruptive Tech: SOTM Survey 2015

According to ChannelWorld’s State of the Mart Survey (SOTM) 2015, 43 percent of channel partners say their business will have a ‘high risk appetite’ in the second half of this year.

Channels’ 3 Great Expectations from Tech OEMs

Introduced as an individual category under ‘Expectations from tech OEMs’ list in SOTM Mid –Year Survey, ‘transparent deal registration’ emerged as the biggest concern for channel companies in India.

Latest Videos

Why We Believe in Servicing a Single Vertical: Satish Pendse, Highbar Technologies

The biggest pro of taking a vertical approach is that you put all your efforts into one thing and this excessive focus helps you succeed, says Satish Pendse, President, Highbar Technologies.

Fortinet Geared to Enhance Visibility: Rajesh Maurya

Fortinet will engage in intense dialogue with customers and partners through events, roadshows, POCs and various other initiatives, says Rajesh Maurya, Country Manager- India & SAARC, Fortinet

Hybrid SDN is a Big Opportunity for Channels: Subhasish Gupta, Allied Telesis

Subhasish Gupta, Country Manager India & SAARC, Allied Telesis, says hybrid SDN and surveillance solutions can open new doors for channel partners in India.

EDITOR'S PICK

The Windows 10 upgrade: Who should do it, who could wait

The day is finally here: Windows 10's launch. And if you haven't been participating in Microsoft's Windows Insider previews, you have a single, simple question: Should I upgrade to Windows 10?

Windows 10 vs. Windows 8: Performance benchmarks show a close battle for fastest

Windows 10 performance is one of the hardest things to nail down right now. Here are some initial tests.

Windows 10 installation files already sneaking onto Windows 7 and 8 PCs

Starting around midnight Eastern time on Wednesday, June 29, 2015 Windows 10 will start rolling out to Windows Insider members.

Windows 10: Fact vs. fiction

It's a few days before Windows 10 is officially slated to drop, and still, confusion abounds. Worse, many fallacies regarding Microsoft's plans around upgrades and support for Win10 remain in circulation, despite efforts to dispel them.

IT hears the siren call of free Windows 10 upgrades

Even enterprise IT professionals are taken with Microsoft's free upgrade offer to Windows 10, according to a recently-released survey by Spiceworks.

SLIDESHOWS

7 Apps By The Indian Government You Need to Use

There are over hundreds of government initiated apps for Android, Apple and Windows devices. With Narendra Modi’s Digital India initiative, the government has released several new feature-rich smartphone applications.

SOTM Mid-Year Survey 2015: Your Roadmap for the Next 6 Months

According to the survey, the next six months of the year are going to be eventful. Here are the challenges, emerging technologies and trends that will shape the rest of the year for you.

The State of the Internet

Akamai's Q1 2015 state of the internet report provides insights into key global statistics including connection speeds, broadband adoption (fixed and mobile networks), and IPv4 exhaustion and IPv6 implementation.

India Software Market on an Upswing

According to IDC, the Indian software market has witnessed consistent growth of 10 percent since the second half of 2014, showing signs of growth and revival. 

7 Jobs Technology Has Replaced

Albert Einstein said once that it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity. With every invention of technology some poor soul becomes vulnerable to losing his or her job in some corner of the world. Here are few jobs that will cease to exist soon.

India's Leading VADs

Why Channels Want to Partner With Inflow Technologies

Inflow Technologies’ tie up with 39 vendor companies, an extensive tech portfolio, and a services play, are great value propositions for enterprise channels, says its President and CEO, Byju Pillai.

iValue Creates Real Value for Channels in India

Focused on niche vendor alliances around data, network and app management backed by a robust channel ecosystem marked iValue's success in 2014. What clicked for the seven-year-old VAD?

RAH Infotech Shows Channels the Way Ahead

Mutual trust and long lasting bond with vendor companies and channel partners helps VADs to evolve and succeed in today’s aggressively competitive market. Leveraging competent channel partners and forge niche vendor alliances marks RAH Infotech’s success in 2014.

How Satcom Infotech is Adapting to New Security Landscape

As a leading value added distributor, Satcom Infotech is emerging as an end-to-end security player, helping both customers and partners grow.

How ComGuard Shields Channel Partners

As emerging technologies introduce new threats to the enterprise landscape, they are making channel partners anxious. But VADs like ComGuard are putting their worries to rest. Here's how.

Tech Chat

Collaborating To Outcome Based World: Priyadarshi Mohapatra, Avaya

Priyadarshi Mohapatra, Managing Director, India and SAARC, Avaya, on how IT is transitioning from a keep-the-lights-on role to one that enables customers to deliver results.

The Dawn of the Digital Age: Akhilesh Tuteja, KPMG

The development of digital infrastructure will be a key growth driver for technology and solution providers. 

Paradigm Shift from End-Users to User-First : Parag Arora,Citrix

Parag Arora, Area Vice President and India Head, India Sub-continent, Citrix, says new technologies will force organizations to take a user-first approach in 2015.

Mobile and Cloud Are Gamechangers of the Future: Karan Bajwa, Microsoft

Karan Bajwa, Managing Director, Microsoft India, says, in  2015, organizations will adopt a mobile-first and cloud-first strategy to get ahead of competition.

A Network for the Internet of Everything : Dinesh Malkani,Cisco

Dinesh Malkani, President, India and SAARC, Cisco, talks about IoT and the significant technology transitions in the networking world.

Moving to the Third Platform: Jaideep Mehta, IDC

Cloud and mobility are the two technologies that will fuel the rapid adoption of the third platform in India.

Envisaging a Holistic Security Strategy For 2015: Sanjay Rohatgi,Symantec

Sanjay Rohatgi, President–Sales, Symantec India, says the company has a set of holistic solutions in place to secure organizations from security threats. 

Beating the Bad Guys: Sivarama Krishnan, PwC

Organizations will need to turn inwards to establish robust information security strategies.

Building Capabilities for a Digital Tomorrow: Alok Ohrie,Dell

Alok Ohrie, President and Managing Director, Dell India, on the company’s investments to build end-to-end solutions and delivery capabilities for a digital world.

FAST TRACK

Kamtron Systems

Transitioning towards a service-oriented company will boost our growth, believes Kavita Singhal, director, Kamtron Systems.

TIM Infratech

Delivering ‘best of breed’ technologies to enterprises is key to success, says Monish Chhabria, MD, TIM Infratech

Mudra Electronics

A vendor-agnostic strategy helped us sustain business, says Bharat Shetty, CMD, Mudra Electronics.

Systematix Technologies

Our USP is a customer-friendly approach backed by services, says Akhilesh Khandelwal, Director, Systematix Technologies.

CorporateServe Solutions

Our ability to turnaround complex ERP projects in record time is what gets us customer referral, says Vinay Vohra, Founder & CEO, CorporateServe Solutions.

KernelSphere Technologies

We are emerging as an end-to-end systems integrator, says Vinod Kumar, MD, KernelSphere Technologies.

Uniware Systems

We constantly validate emerging technologies for first-mover advantage, says Vergis K.R., CEO, Uniware Systems.

Astek Networking & Solutions

An innovative approach helps us stay successful, says Ashish Agarwal, CEO, Astek Networking & Solutions.

CSM Technologies

Our approach is backed by innovation and simplicity, says Priyadarshi Nanu Pany, CEO, CSM Technologies.

SOCIAL MEDIA @ CW India
SIGNUP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER

Signup for our newsletter and get regular updates.