The team of researchers from Checkmarx who found this flaw, analyzed the Google Pixel camera application and discovered that several elements allows manipulating the smartphone's camera to record videos or capture images. With this in mind, the number of smartphone users carrying around this issue on their phones is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions.
In addition, the team discovered "that certain attack scenarios enable malicious actors to circumvent various storage permission policies, giving them access to stored videos and photos, as well as Global Positioning System metadata embedded in photos, to locate the user by taking a photo or video and parsing the proper EXIF data". The problem is that Samsung and Google camera apps were not well covered outside requests. You can understand how unsafe this vulnerability is. Taking advantage of the flaw, the researchers say they could silently take pictures, record video and audio, check whether the phone was facing down, record calls, and access the device's location via Global Positioning System data included in photos. This left the door open for camera use without the explicit permission of this component; resulting in any malicious app could make a huge gap in the security and privacy of the user. The location of the attacker, on the other hand, could be anywhere on the planet.
The team found that an app with access to just the phone's storage could bypass Android's security to not only take pictures and video but to upload the content to an external server. The app gave the human controlling that server a real-time video feed.
'Even closing the app does no longer end the power connection'.
Using the command-and-control server, the attacker can see the vulnerable devices connected to the server and could force the target phone to take a photo or video and have it uploaded to the server. They can also potentially parse all photos for GPS tags and locate the phone on a global map, thereby ascertaining the geo-location of the unsuspecting victim.
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The flaw also allowed them to hear in on both aspects of phone conversations and file them -again, with out users intellectual.
Checkmarx initially submitted a vulnerability report to Android's Security team at Google in July. Checkmarx speculates that the weakness may be the result of Google making the camera work with the voice-activated Google Assistant and other manufacturers following suit. Both took steps to patch the vulnerabilities.
Given the severity of this problem - coupled with the fact that Google has failed to coordinate with its Android partners to provide a clear answer in the almost four months it has had to do so, we'd imagine more than a few users will be choosing the latter option.
Google has rolled out a fix in this month's security updates, which should have already rolled out to Pixel phones. And if your device is too old to receive updates, it's probably time to get a new one.