When Android launched in September 2008, it was hard to imagine it ever becoming the world’s most popular mobile operating system.
However, today more than 80 percent of smartphones run on Android, more than iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry OS combined.
With more people of all ages using smartphones than ever before, Android users will be concerned to hear that the operating system has a major flaw, one that allows hackers to break in and take over phones simply by sending a text message.
The scariest part of this newfound hack is that there is almost nothing the target can do to stop the attack.
All a hacker would have to do is send a video message to the target and hide the malware inside the video.
The risk of hacking is significantly increased in a public setting, when the user and the hacker connect to the same local Wifi network.
Joshua Drake, a security researcher who helped discover this flaw in Android’s operating system, claims that once the video is received by the phone, the damage is done.
He claims, “It does its initial processing, which triggers the vulnerability.”
This means the target does not even have to see the message or open the video to start the attack.
Drake said the messaging app Hangouts instantly processes these videos once the phone receives them to keep them ready in the photo gallery, and that this is the reason a video does not even have to be opened to infect a phone.
Drake goes on to say that once the hacker is in the phone, a world of possibilities exist.
The hacker could copy and delete data, or even take over your microphone and camera and oversee the target’s every word and movement.
When Joshua Drake notified Google of the issues with its mobile operating system, he sent along patches to fix the flaws, which Google later said they had accepted in an email to Drake.
Despite this, Drake believed that as few as 20 percent of the affected phones will get fixed, however, he estimated that the figure could reach as high as 50 percent.
Unfortunately for Android, patching the flaw is not as simple as releasing an update.
Android is a far different system than Apple’s iOS, which regularly sends out updates which iPhone users can download right off of their phone.
Instead, Android sends out its operating system to manufacturers and carriers who tweak the system as they please.
Robert Mulliner, a senior research scientist at Northeastern University, says there is little incentive for these carriers to issue patches for products that have already been sold.
An issue like this is one that many can relate to, for over two-thirds of Americans now own smartphones according to pewinternet.org.
That number is even higher at Union, where it seems that almost every student owns one.
Emily Kaufman ’18, thinks the idea of such an easy hack on an Android “shows that nothing is private in our world anymore.”
Another student, Lauren Daugherty ’18, finds it, “very scary that a major company like Google would leave its consumer so vulnerable.”
Hacking is an issue that is popping up more and more in today’s society with all of the new technology that people own.
It has even become the topic of the USA Network’s “Mr. Robot,” the hit TV series that debuted this past summer.
It is clearer now than ever how important this issue is.