Security researchers have warned of a pair of vulnerabilities in the Google Play Store that could allow cyber crooks to install and launch malicious applications remotely on Android devices.
Tod Beardsley, technical lead for the Metasploit Framework at Rapid7 warns that an X-Frame-Options (XFO) vulnerability – when combined with a recent Android WebView (Jelly Bean) flaw – creates a way for hackers to quietly install any arbitrary app from the Play store onto victims’ device even without the users consent.
The vulnerability affects users running Android version 4.3 Jelly Bean and earlier versions of Android that no longer receive official security updates from Android security team for WebView, a core component used to render web pages on an Android device. Also, users who have installed third party browsers are affected.
According to the researcher, the web browser in Android 4.3 and prior that are vulnerable to a Universal Cross-Site Scripting (UXSS) attack, and Google Play Store is vulnerable to a Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) flaw.
UNIVERSAL CROSS-SITE SCRIPTING FLAW
In UXSS attacks, client-side vulnerabilities are exploited in a web browser or browser extensions to generate an XSS condition, which allows the malicious code to be executed, bypassing or disabling the security protection mechanisms in the web browser.
“Users of these platforms may also have installed vulnerable aftermarket browsers,” Beardsley explains in a blog post on Tuesday. “Until the Google Play store XFO [X-Frame-Options] gap is mitigated, users of these web applications who habitually sign in to their Google Account will remain vulnerable.“
At the beginning of this month, a Universal Cross Site Scripting (UXSS) flaw was discovered in all the latest versions of Internet Explorer that allows malicious hackers to inject malicious code into users’ websites and steal cookies, session and login credentials.
METASPLOIT MODULE IS PUBLICLY AVAILABLE
A Metasploit module has been created and made public on Github
in order to help enterprise security bods test corporate-issued smartphones for exposure to the vulnerability. According to the advisory, the remote code execution is achieved by leveraging two vulnerabilities on affected Android devices:
- First, the module exploits a Universal Cross-Site Scripting (UXSS) vulnerability present in versions of Android’s open source stock browser (the AOSP Browser) as well as some other browsers, prior to 4.4 (KitKat).
- Second, the Google Play store’s web interface fails to enforce a X-Frame-Options: DENY header on some error pages, and therefore, can be targeted for script injection. As a result, this leads to remote code execution through Google Play’s remote installation feature, as any application available on the Google Play store can be installed and launched on the user’s device.
HOW TO PREVENT BEING EXPOSED
- Use a web browsers that are not susceptible to widely known UXSS vulnerabilities – such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox or Dolphin. This could help mitigate the lack of universal X-Frame-Options (XFO) for the play.google.com domain.
- Another effective way is to simply logged out of the Google Play store account in order to avoid the vulnerability, although this practice is highly unlikely to be adopted by most of the users.