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Google plugs 'Master Key' security flaw afflicting 99 percent of Android users

09 Jul 2013
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Google has released an emergency fix plugging a security vulnerability that was affecting 99 percent of all Android devices.

A Google spokesman confirmed to V3 the company has released the patch to core partners and OEMs, but added the firm is yet to see any evidence suggesting the flaw has been actively exploited by cyber criminals.

Even with the patch fix released, it will still remain up to manufacturers and partner companies to roll it out to the general public. In the past companies have been slow to release updates to Android.

The vulnerability was originally reported by security firm Bluebox and reportedly affects every version of Android since 1.6. and could be used to target any Google phone or tablet released in the last four years.

Bluebox security chief technology officer Jeff Forristal said the flaw relates to the cryptographic signature of Android apps. Theoretically if exploited the flaw could allow hackers to turn legitimate applications into defence-dodging Trojans.

This is largely due to the fact most companies, like Samsung, Sony and HTC have chosen to customise the Android version used on their devices which need to be optimised for each new version of the OS released by Google.

The slow update cycle means that in the past older versions of Android, like Gingerbread have been the most commonly used. It was only this month that Google's latest Jelly Bean Android version overtook Gingerbread to become the most common version of the OS.

Security experts have highlighted the slow update cycle as causing numerous problems outside of the Master Key issue reported by Bluebox. Most recently experts from Trend Micro and Kaspersky said even with the release Android's fragmented nature makes it difficult to fully secure the operating system, making it laborious and costly for security firms to fully support all Android versions.

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Alastair Stevenson

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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