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Google Android Silent App Installation

Google Android Silent App Installation
Posted Jul 14, 2020
Authored by Enrico Weigelt

Google's PlayServices has a built-in backdoor which allows Google Inc, or anybody who has access to some device owner's Google account to remotely silently deploy any apps (at least those listed in the AppStore).

tags | advisory
SHA-256 | e33e4b676a65b515729c81271908d18c840aadc2370f8a5643c5cdf980ce1785

Google Android Silent App Installation

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=======================================================================
Advisory: Google's Android (play services) built-in backdoor for remote
app installation.
=======================================================================

Google's PlayServices has a built-in backdoor which allows Google Inc,
or anybody who has access to some device owner's Google account to
remotely silently deploy any apps (at least those listed in the AppStore).


Some technical background:

* PlayServices (GMS) frequently polls Google services for various kinds
of push messages
* amongst those push message is one for triggering the GMS to *silently*
download and install some app from Google app store
* there's no explicit notification, nor asking for confirmation
(except for download progress shortly appearing in status bar)

Possible attackers:

* anybody who highjacked victim's Google account
* Malicious operatives at Google

Quick mitigation:

a) take away all permissions (especially changing system settings) from
Google Play Services as well as Google Play Store

--> dramatically reduced the ratio of successful remote deployments
via Google App Store Web interface

b) disable / remove Google Play Services and Google App Store


Legal considerations:

It is clear that Google explicitly built in an backdoor for silent
remote deployment, without user concent - which is an criminal offense
in most jurisdictions. (eg. CFAA in the US, §303 StGB in Germany).

Law enforcemence agencies are called to start criminal prosecution,
victims (virtually any Android user) might consider filing criminal
charges against Google.


---
Enrico Weigelt, metux IT consult
Free software and Linux embedded engineering
info@metux.net -- +49-151-27565287


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