Security researchers from the University of California, Riverside and the University of Michigan have discovered a vulnerability in the Android mobile operating system that could enable malicious apps to carry out man-in-the-middle (MITM) and other attacks on apps running on the same device.
The attack exploits the fact that despite app sandboxing efforts, most apps still rely on a window manager, a graphic interface framework that operates in shared memory space, to render their graphical interface elements.
During the recent USENIX security conference, the researchers demonstrated how a malicious app running in the background could monitor a window manager and correctly infer from activity there what a given app was doing, allowing the malicious app to execute MITM attacks such as launching a dummy login screen to capture credentials when a banking app is launched. Another possible scenario is a camera-peeking attack in which the malicious app watches for a banking app to use the camera to take a photo of a check for automatic deposit, and take its own photo immediately afterward without the user's knowledge.
Because the attack works at such a fundamental level, the researchers suspect it also affects Windows and iOS devices.
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