Tomek Kondrat · Nov 30, 2013 at 01:00 pm

Google Nexus Devices Vulnerable to DoS Attacks, Protect Yourself with Simple App

Due to their expedient updates and lack of potentially vulnerable carrier and OEM addons, Nexus devices are considered to be among the safest Android devices. Being certified by Google mean a lot, but everything has some vulnerabilities, and newest Nexus devices are no exemption.

According to Romanian security researcher Bogdan Alecu, the Nexus lineup is vulnerable to a denial-of-service attacks based on a special type of SMS. This attack relies on Flash SMS, short messages displayed on the screen without being stored in the inbox. These are most often seen in pre-paid contract plans, used by a carrier to send messages with recent costs.

As it turns out, Flash SMS messages sent in rapid succession can cause some unexpected behavior like freezing, crashing, or even rebooting. The newest Nexus phones will reboot after approximately 30 messages sent in a short time. Users won’t be able to realize that they device was attacked without looking at the screen. Sometimes some data loss occur, so many important calls can be missed because of this.

Alecu claims that Google was alerted about this problem about a year ago and promised to fix it in Android 4.3. Unfortunately, they didn’t fulfill their promise, and the issue is still present in KitKat on the Nexus 5. The situation is even more abnormal, as non-Nexus device are unaffected. The security researcher claims that he tested almost 20 various devices, and only Nexus devices were vulnerable.

The Google Play Store offers plenty of apps that can send Flash SMS messages, including one made by Bogdan Alecu himself. Luckily, Alecu was kind enough to release a proof of concept application that protects Nexus devices from these attacks as well.

These DoS attacks that are described by Bogdan Alecu are not the most malicious and dangerous. An attacker can’t control your device. However, the potential for data loss, pranking, and even stalking may make this a rather annoying glitch. Hopefully, Google will look into this issue and fix it as soon as possible.

[Thanks to XDA Recognized Contributor D™ for the tip]
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Tomek Kondrat

eagleeyetom is an editor on XDA-Developers, the largest community for Android users. Tomek is the only Polish moderator on XDA Developers. He graduated from the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn with a degree in journalism and public communication in 2013. He's a big fan of football (not hand egg), post rock and cooking. A total addict of mobile technology, especially Android. Currently flashes dozens of custom ROMs on his OPO. View eagleeyetom's posts and articles here.
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