Security backdoor found in Samsung Galaxy devices – lets hackers tamper with data

13 Mar 2014

Security researchers have discovered a ‘backdoor’ flaw on Samsung Galaxy devices where hackers can remotely access the devices and meddle with data.

It is understood Samsung ships its smartphones with a modified version of Android which has pre-installed proprietary software.

However, because it apparently did not carry out an independent code review of the software it makes it harder to identify the existence of backdoors.

The Free Software Foundation, creators of a free version of Android called Replicant OS, discovered that the proprietary program running on the applications processor in charge of handling the communication protocol with the modem actually implements a backdoor that lets the modem perform remote file I/O operations on the file system.

Paul Kocialkowski from the Free Software Association explained: “This program is shipped with the Samsung Galaxy devices and makes it possible for the modem to read, write, and delete files on the phone’s storage.

“On several phone models, this program runs with sufficient rights to access and modify the user’s personal data.”

Kocialkowski said that provided that the modem runs proprietary software and can be remotely controlled, that backdoor provides remote access to the phone’s data, even in the case where the modem is isolated and cannot access the storage directly.

“This is yet another example of what unacceptable behaviour proprietary software permits,” he said.

Samsung retail image by Tanjala Gica via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years