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Security in Context: The BeyondTrust Blog

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Talking Ninja Monkey Hacks Android

Posted March 10, 2011    Peter McCalister

No, we are not talking about a new John Carpenter movie or tabloid headline, although this is the headline I would love to see.  The real headline is that hackers found a way to hijack root for Google Android and injected malware into 21 applications.

The headline used by WSJ.com on Mar 8 was “Google Takes Heat Over App Security.” and reported that “The company behind the now ubiquitous Android operating system came under fire after computer-security experts last week uncovered more than 50 malicious applications that were uploaded to and distributed from Google’s Android Market.”  We have warned companies frequently in this blog about the dangers of root access and how it can be used for indirect misuse of privilegeby malware.  In fact, this is not the first time that Google experienced this type of intrusion as was reported back in October, 2010.

But I think Andrian Kingsley-Hughes over at ZDNet cuts to the heart of the matter by saying “To many of its fans, the openness and freedoms offered by the Android mobile operating systems is one of its main selling points. But that openness come with a price – it makes it easy for nefarious types to sneak malware into apps. And that’s exactly what they are doing.”

I also think the subject of “freeware” vs “licensed software” has a direct effect in the server market with the ubiquitous use of sudo.  I can only hope that at some point IT professionals will wake up to the value of implementing a licensed privilege identity management solution across desktops, servers, virtual and cloud environments in order to eliminate the misuse of privilege.

Now if only the hacker who pulled off this feat with Android had the handle @TalkingNinjaMonkey then this story would be complete and we’d have the perfect headline…at least until every company implements a least privilege solution and eliminates root and admin access across the extended enterprise.

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