What's protecting our mobile devices might not be as secure as we think it is, or even working in our favor. That's what a new study from the University of Michigan is saying about firewall technology being employed by cellular networks.
U-M computer science associate professor Z. Morley Mao and doctoral student Zhiyun Qian conducted a study of Andriod smartphones that revealed how hackers could hijack TCP Internet connection by taking advantage of publicly available information on smartphones; users' willingness to download untrusted apps; and network firewall middleboxes, which block data bundles that don't appear to be part of the flow of information traffic. The researchers detected these middleboxes on 32 percent of the nearly 150 networks they tested worldwide.
"I'm surprised that security feature is working against its purpose," Qian says. "People are overlooking that this feature can be a bad feature."
Qian and Mao will present their work this week at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy
in San Francisco. They have also developed an Android app
that tells phone users when they're on a vulnerable network.
"A very simple thing they can do is get rid of the feature," Qian says. "If the got rid of the feature the sequence number won't be leaked to an attacker."
Source: Zhiyun Qian, doctoral student at the University of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke