Have you ever wanted to root your Android device, so you could be like all the other cool kids on the block? If you did your research, you learned that it makes it easier for attackers to keep their malware on your device, if it were to be infected, through the use of a rootkit. Therefore, in the interest of security, you made the choice not to root your device. Well, that’s a good first step, but it won’t protect you from all rootkits.
Researchers have managed to find and exploit a vulnerability in the Launcher component of the Android framework. This varies from the normal type of rootkit that would typically exploit a component of the core operating system. In a demonstration video of their work, the researchers show how a UI redressing attack can be performed by hijacking the Android Launcher. A UI redressing attack (aka: clickjacking attack) is a way for attackers to get you to click on something that looks legitimate in nature, but is actually tricking you into performing some other action of the attacker’s choosing. In the case of this rootkit, the clickjacking technique can be used to hide malicious apps from the user, so that the user has no idea something nefarious is on their device.
It needs to be made clear that 1) this does not involve any rooting of the device, 2) no privilege escalation is taking place, 3) no modifications to userland or the kernel are made, and 4) no processes other than the Launcher are controlled. This makes it very different from certain types of malware that rely on a phone being rooted in order to take over the mobile device.
There’s your security, but now we’ll put it in context.
This is a technique that researchers have discovered. It was not reported as something observed in the wild. The researchers are “working on ways to protect against attacks like these” (we hope this means that they will be working directly with the Android framework developer team). Details of the how the researchers managed to hijack the Launcher are non-existent at this point in time, so malware authors have very little to work with.
To help you stay secure, we’ve built the ability to create custom audits for Android devices into Retina. Once further information becomes available about this Android vulnerability, you’ll be able to audit your Android devices, so you can defend against this vulnerability, helping to maintain a strong security posture for you and your organization.