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Millions of Android devices have flawed full disk encryption

Engadget Engadget 1/07/2016 Jessica Conditt
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Hackers can use brute force to break into tens of millions of Android devices using full disk encryption, thanks to a series of security issues linked specifically to Android kernel flaws and Qualcomm processors, Neowin reports. The vulnerabilities were uncovered by security researcher Gal Beniamini, who is working with Google and Qualcomm to patch the problems -- and some of the flaws have already been addressed. However, a few of the issues may not be patchable, instead requiring new hardware, the report says.

Any phone using Android 5.0 or later uses full disk encryption, the same security feature at the heart of Apple's recent fight with the FBI. Full disk encryption makes all data on a device unrecognizable without a unique key. Even though modern Android devices use this security feature, Beniamini's research found that an attacker can exploit kernel flaws and vulnerabilities in some of Qualcomm's security measures to get that encryption key. Then, all that stands between the hacker and a device's information is a password.

Since any attack on an Android device would still require brute force and additional hacking methods, this isn't an immediate security threat for a majority of users. But, it is notable for those who put their complete trust in full disk encryption.

We've reached out to Qualcomm for comment on the flaw and will update this story as the company responds.


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