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Millions of Samsung Galaxy phones may be vulnerable to hackers

Fiscal Times logo Fiscal Times 6/17/2015 Andrew Lumby
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If you’re one of the millions of users of a Samsung Galaxy phone, you might be a potential target for a malicious hacker.

A repor released today by NowSecure, a security firm located in Chicago, found that a glitch in Swift, the keyboard software used by default on all Samsung Galaxy devices could allow a remote attacker to compromise your phone.

This particular bug makes the phone vulnerable to what is known as a “man in the middle” attack. The Swift software consistently sends requests to a server, checking for updates. To someone with the right knowhow, though, it’s possible to impersonate Swift’s server and send through software that can be used to gain control of the device.

The main problem with this vulnerability is that there’s no real solution. The Swift keyboard is so integrated into Samsung’s software that it cannot be removed or disabled — even if it is switched out with a different keyboard app. Steering clear of unsecured Wi-Fi networks will make you less likely to be targeted, but it won’t render you invulnerable.

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Swift runs with elevated permissions, giving it pretty much free rein around the phone. This means that a hacker that worms his way into it can also access the Galaxy’s microphone and camera, track the user’s location or listen to their calls. They can even install apps.

NowSecure claims to have made Samsung and Google’s Android team aware of this vulnerability in late 2014, and Samsung reportedly has made a patch available to network providers. It’s not clear, though, whether providers have pushed out the patch to users yet. Many networks have a record of being notoriously slow to push through updates and security patches, and NowSecure’s tests found a number of Galaxy phones on different carriers were still vulnerable as of Tuesday.

If you’re of a more technical bent, you may be interested in seeing the details of NowSecure’s report on their blog. If you’re of a less technical bent, you might want to check with your carrier and try to avoid insecure Wi-Fi networks.

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