Some Samsung phones can be wiped by clicking a malicious link

By on September 25, 2012, 10:30 AM

Update 9/26: Samsung has issued a security fix for its flagship Galaxy S3 smartphone addressing this issue. The update can be found under Software Update feature in Settings. No word yet on when the Galaxy S II and other affected devices will be patched as well.

A security researcher has discovered that a single line of code can start a factory reset on a number of Samsung handsets including the Galaxy S II. The payload can optionally include code that is capable of killing the SIM card inside a phone. Worse over, there’s no way to stop the procedure once it has been initiated.

Ravi Borgaonkar outlined his findings during the recent Ekoparty security conference. Anyone with bad intentions could use a simple USSD code to wipe the devices in question. The malicious line of code can be activated by visiting a booby trapped website either by directly clicking a link, through NFC, via a WAP-push SMS message or from a rigged QR code. In each case, there is no warning given to the user before the reset begins.

We are hearing that only devices running TouchWiz are vulnerable to the attack. As of writing, the best advice is to disable automatic site-loading from QR scans and NFC reader software and as always, use safe surfing habits.

The hack has been confirmed to work on the aforementioned Galaxy phones as well as the Galaxy Beam, S Advanced and the Galaxy Ace. Early reports listed the Galaxy S III as vulnerable but we according to a tweet from TeamAndIRC, the USSD code issue on that phone has been patched. They say current i747 (AT&T) and i9300 (European Galaxy S III) firmware aren’t vulnerable; AT&T reportedly fixed the loophole with a patch just last week. No word yet from Samsung on the matter, however.




User Comments: 10

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1 person liked this | Guest said:

Well played, Apple, Well played. If the courts wont work in your favor. Take matters into your own hands.

rvnwlfdroid said:

For all those Samsung users out there. Here is a 4 step process.

1. Root

2. Titanium Backup

3. Rom Manager (or which ever manager you choose)

4. Install a ROM without TouchWiz.

Just a thought.

rvnwlfdroid said:

For all those Samsung users out there. Here is a 4 step process.

1. Root

2. Titanium Backup

3. Rom Manager (or which ever manager you choose)

4. Install a ROM without TouchWiz.

Just a thought.

Oh yah... and XDA can be your best friend.

Guest said:

@guest above:

do you think this is apple's doing? it's been known since where cellphone still used monochrome display, there are several code we can input to our handset (any manufacturer/brand) that can conduct specific command without entering menu, one of them is to reset to factory setting

ReederOnTheRun ReederOnTheRun said:

Well played, Apple, Well played. If the courts wont work in your favor. Take matters into your own hands.

Hahaha the best part is that I could totally see them doing this. I'd actually put money on it. If this specifically isn't them, I'd bet they still have researchers somewhere in the company doing stuff like this.

trparky said:

Oh yah... and XDA can be your best friend.

I'm more of a RootzWiki fan myself.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

Well played, Apple, Well played. If the courts wont work in your favor. Take matters into your own hands.

Hahaha the best part is that I could totally see them doing this. I'd actually put money on it. If this specifically isn't them, I'd bet they still have researchers somewhere in the company doing stuff like this.

Maybe even a die hard iphone fan trying to help his team, it's an odd hack tho, atleast information isn't stolen

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

For all those Samsung users out there. Here is a 4 step process.

1. Root

2. Titanium Backup

3. Rom Manager (or which ever manager you choose)

4. Install a ROM without TouchWiz.

Just a thought.

Except the bug was misreported in the original story and affects other systems that don't use TouchWiz.

DanUK DanUK said:

Christ, that's one nasty payload.

Guest said:

Why is mobile still so far behind with threat and virus protection? I'm not a mobile user, so this is a valid question to me. I have heard that it is getting worse. True?

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