Important flaw discovered contained in the UNISOC smartphone chip


The vulnerability was found by Examine Level Analysis. UNISOC processes 11% of the world’s smartphones.

Technician carefully examines the integrity of the internal elements of the smartphone in a modern repair shop
Picture: Fxquadro/Adobe Inventory

Examine Level Analysis has recognized what it’s calling a crucial safety vulnerability in UNISOC’s smartphone chip, which is liable for mobile communication in 11% of the world’s smartphones. The vulnerability was discovered within the UNISOC modem firmware and never within the Android OS itself, the corporate stated.

UNISOC, previously Spreadtrum Communications, is a Shanghai-based semiconductor firm that produces chipsets for cellular gadgets and good TVs. Left unpatched, an attacker might exploit the vulnerability to remotely deny modem providers and block communications.

What smartphone chips are compromised?

The flaw impacts 4G and 5G UNISOC chipsets, and Google can be publishing the patch within the upcoming Android Safety Bulletin, CPR stated. The corporate disclosed its findings to UNISOC, which it stated gave the vulnerability a rating of 9.4 out of 10. UNISOC has since patched the CVE-2022-20210 vulnerability.

SEE: Cell gadget safety coverage (TechRepublic Premium)

The UNISOC modem is in style in Africa and Asia and is liable for mobile communication. CPR discovered the vulnerability whereas conducting an evaluation of the UNISOC baseband to discover a option to remotely assault UNISOC gadgets, the corporate stated in a weblog put up. CPR reverse-engineered the implementation of the LTE protocol stack for an examination of safety flaws, the primary time this was accomplished, in response to the corporate.

UNISOC, MediaTek and Qualcomm are the highest three chip makers for Android gadgets, in response to CPR. Previously three years, CPR has researched Qualcomm’s TrustZone, DSP and radio modem processors, in addition to MediaTek’s TrustZone DSP.

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Regardless that UNISOC has been available on the market for a very long time, the chip firmware utilized in Android cell phones has not been studied extensively, a CPR spokesperson stated Wednesday. That was the impetus for testing it.

“If you happen to take a look at the newest statistics, you possibly can see that UNISOC’s gross sales have elevated each quarter within the final yr,’’ the CPR spokesperson stated. “We predict that hackers will quickly flip their consideration to UNISOC as [the chip becomes] extra in style, because it occurred with MediaTek and Qualcomm.”

Researchers scanned message handlers within the NAS protocol for a brief time period and located the vulnerability, which can be utilized to disrupt the gadget’s radio communication via a malformed packet. A hacker or army unit can leverage such a vulnerability to neutralize communications in a selected location, in response to CPR.

The smartphone’s modem is a primary goal for hacking

The smartphone’s modem is liable for cellphone calls, SMS and cellular Web. By attacking it, a hacker can block the modem’s performance or acquire the flexibility to eavesdrop on a consumer’s cellphone calls.

“The smartphone modem is a primary goal for hackers as it may be simply reached remotely via SMS or a radio packet,” UNISOC stated.

Fashionable smartphones are primarily based on very advanced chips, the corporate spokespersons added.

“The UNISOC chip incorporates a set of specialised processors to isolate the particular options of the gadget, in addition to scale back the load on the principle processor that runs Android. Thus, the radio modem is represented on the chip by a separate processor and working system.”

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CPR used the Motorola Moto G20 with the Android January 2022 replace as a take a look at gadget. The gadget is predicated on the UNISOC T700 chip.

“An attacker might have used a radio station to ship a malformed packet that may reset the modem, depriving the consumer of the potential for communication,’’ Slava Makkaveev, a safety researcher at Examine Level Software program, stated in an announcement. “There may be nothing for Android customers to do proper now, although we strongly suggest making use of the patch that can be launched by Google of their upcoming Android Safety Bulletin.”

Examine Level urges cellular customers to at all times replace their cell phone OS to the newest accessible software program.

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