Last week, I was preparing a presentation for smart phone security training, I found out a statistics of android OS usage. The newest ratio was published in Android Developers webpage(http://developer.android.com)
As you can see, the most popular version is Gingerbread(2.3.3-2.3.7). Over 50% users still using Gingerbread, even Jelly Bean has been released. (Gingerbread released December 2010). It means, if a hacker try to attack an android smart phone, there is no reason for insist 0-day of Jelly Bean, because he can reuse the vulnerability of old android that was already exposed.
This is the vulnerability list of android publicly posted, some of them can using for remote code execution and privilege escalation. The vulnerability can be a trigger to gain an access right from remote and that can use to obtain root.
Smart malware producers already knew it, they aimed to attack most popular versions like Gingerbread and ICS. According to a survey, 28% of malwares were targeted to Gingerbread.
Even though a critical vulnerability were reported and patched it, an user would be exposed if they are not applying it.
To apply patch on Android has several barriers, 1) An user usually want to be stable, 2) Complicated patch circumstance.
Smartphone has many new features and it’s becoming an innovative stuff. But essentially it’s a phone, so some of ordinary users are expecting stable voice call and unchanged interface as a traditional feature phone. They would never apply patch before facing a big problem or someone asking to apply it.
And, as we know that, Google has released Android, then Smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, HTC update and modify the original source to develop their own device. This environment make confusions like “who is in charge of developing a patch”, “How distribute and apply patch for users”. To fast patch, the clear controller is needed. They have to analyze the vulnerability, develop the patch, distribute and inform it. But, Android platform has many stakeholders than iOS (iOS is only controlled by Apple), therefore they need a time and procedure to check the responsibility like kernel bug or application bug, effecting to all version or only special device and so on. Furthermore, restart smart phone to apply patch is a another hurdle. A phone should waiting a call 24 hours, so restart and shutdown are not a good condition. Some people who are not interested in IT device and security wouldn’t restart their own Smartphone for patching.
When we make the mobile security strategy for company or users, we have to consider it, every device is not a full patched android. And Android platform and Smartphone manufacturers need to improve their patching environment.