What just happened? Researchers at security testing firm Checkmarx have uncovered several alarming vulnerabilities in the camera apps of multiple Android smartphone vendors including Google and Samsung. They've since been fixed but you'll need to make sure you are running the latest app updates to mitigate your vulnerability.

As Checkmarx Senior Security Researcher Pedro Umbelino explains, the team started their investigation by having a look at the Google Camera app on Pixel 2 XL and Pixel 3 handsets. They found multiple vulnerabilities relating to permission bypass issues which could allow an attacker to use the app to take photos and record videos via a rogue app.

Attacks are even possible when a victim’s phone is locked, the screen is off and during voice calls.

Other attack scenarios could allow a bad actor to access stored photos and videos and even garner GPS metadata to help track down the location of a user. This technique also applied to Samsung’s Camera app, Umbelino noted.

To demonstrate the various vulnerabilities, the team at Checkmarx designed a proof-of-concept app meant to look like an ordinary weather app. With it, they were successfully able to snap photos and videos without a user’s knowledge, grab GPS data from photos and even record audio from both sides of a conversation during voice calls.

Umbelino said the Checkmarx team responsibly notified Google of their findings who confirmed that the issue wasn’t limited to their camera app but rather, extended into the general Android ecosystem.

Google in a statement issued to Checkmarx said the issue was addressed on impacted Google devices via a Play Store update to the Google Camera app in July 2019, adding that a patch has been made available to all partners. Both Google and Samsung approved of Checkmarx’s sharing of the vulnerabilities after a fix was released.

As a general best practice and to mitigate these specific issues, make sure you have the latest updates for each and every app on your mobile device.

Masthead credit: Smartphone tracking by CHUYKO SERGEY