Fixing the latest bugs and exploits in Android every month.
These are exploits and other security concerns that affect Android as a whole. Issues with the operating system, kernel patches, and driver updates may not affect any particular device, but these need to be fixed in the Android base by the folks maintaining the operating system code. That means Google, and they’ve detailed the things they have improved for this month.
Updated factory images for Pixel and Nexus devices that are supported are available, and over-the-air updates are rolling out to users. If you don’t want to wait, you can download and flash the factory image or OTA update file manually, and here are some handy instructions to get you started.
The company who made your phone uses these patches to send an update out to you.
These changes have been released to the people making Android phones for at least 30 days, but Google can’t force anyone to deliver them to you. If you’re using a phone from Samsung, LG, or anyone besides Google, you’ll need to wait for them to send an update and shouldn’t try to flash any of the above files.
Of course, Google has safety checks in place to prevent any problems on your phone because of any security exploits. Verify Apps and SafetyNet are at work any time you add an app to your phone, and seamless updates to Google Play Services will keep them up to date regardless of any hold-up from a manufacturer or carrier. Details and incident numbers can be found in the yearly Android Security Review (.pdf file).
Highlights for March 2017
March 2017’s update comes with two patch dates: 03/01/2017 and 03/05/2017.
- A remote code execution vulnerability in OpenSSL and BoringSSL was patched. This exploit could allow a specially built file to corrupt files stored in memory and potentially could allow remote code execution. All Android devices (everything else that connects to the internet as well) are vulnerable. Google has built patches for Android versions 4.4.4 through 7.1.1.
- An elevation of privilege vulnerability in the recovery verifier that could enable kernel access to a local app has been patched. As above, this is a critical patch for all devices and Google provides a fix in AOSP for versions 4.4.4 to 7.1.1.
- The AOSP Messaging app has been further patched to address a vulnerability that could enable another app to bypass Android’s system-level protections and see data it shouldn’t be able to access.
- Updated firmware binaries to address hardware-specific vulnerabilities were received from Broadcom, HTC, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Realtek, Synaptics and Google themselves for the ION subsystem. Any of these binaries that are applicable to Nexus or Pixel devices are available at the Google Developer site.
If you get an update with a patch date of 03/05/2017, you also have every issue addressed by the 03/01/2017 update in place.
Previous bulletin highlights
Here are summaries and highlights of recent patches from the monthly Android Security Bulletin. As with the current bulletin, these issues were also mitigated by Google’s Verify Apps, Safety Net, and seamless updates to Google Play Services.
February 2017’s update comes with two patch dates: 02/01/2017 and 02/05/2017.
- Qualcomm and MediaTek have issued updates that prevent a malicious app from gaining elevated privileges by executing code in the kernel space. The code for these patches is not publicly available, but updated binary files are available at the Google Developer site. Devices running Android 7.0 or higher were not affected.
- The AOSP Messaging and Mail apps have been patched to address a vulnerability that could enable another app to bypass Android’s system-level protections and see data it shouldn’t be able to access.
- The Bionic DNS function (Bionic is Android’s standard C library) has been patched to prevent a specific Denial of Service attack that would cause a device to freeze or reboot.
- Updated firmware binaries to address hardware-specific vulnerabilities were received from Broadcom, HTC, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Realtek, and Synaptics. Any of these binaries that are applicable to Nexus or Pixel devices are available at the Google Developer site.
If you get an update with a patch date of 02/05/2017, you also have every issue addressed by the 02/01/2017 update in place.
January 2017’s update comes with two patch dates: 01/01/2017 and 01/05/2017.
- Qualcomm has fully patched the various exploits that were collectively called quadrooter. All phones with a patch date of 01/05/16 or later are patched. Qualcomm additionally assisted in patching less severe exploits in the camera and bootloader of some phones.
- The multimedia server and support drivers for audio and video components continue to be updated to prevent exploits such as last year’s Stagefright issues. Google made a promise to continuously monitor and patch the multimedia system to prevent a repeat and have so far delivered on it.
If you get an update with a patch date of 01/05/2017, you also have every issue addressed by the 01/01/2017 update in place.
December 2016’s update comes with two patch dates: 12/01/2016 and 12/05/2016.
- Fixes in the 12/01 update cover Android in general and address issues with the Android operating system itself. The most serious exploit addressed was in the CURL library (software used to transfer data that covers most transfer protocols and security certificates), where a man-in-the-middle attack could be performed by someone with a spoofed security certificate. Other patches for Smart Lock, the telephony system, and comm stack are also included.
- The 12/05 patch date covers issues with the kernel or drivers. These aren’t part of Android, but Google is the central maintainer and assembles updated code and resources from the folks making the hardware components. This time we see fixes for serious exploits from Qualcomm, MediaTek, and NVIDIA — so chances are your phone needs these. Samsung’s Exynos chips are covered outside of the Android Security Bulletin and are patched by Samsung themselves.
If you received an update with a patch date of 12/05 you also have every issue addressed by the 12/01 update in place.