A research paper from the University of Michigan will be presented at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy claims that researchers were able to use a carrier exploit which allowed them to hijack connections to Facebook, Twitter, AdMob, Windows Live Messenger and spoof financial institutions. The exploit tricks carrier firewalls by manipulating TCP sequence numbers and can give hackers the ability to redirect users to spoofed websites.
Researchers used Android smartphones made by HTC, Motorola and Samsung that were connected to AT&T’s network to test the exploit, but 47 other carriers are also reportedly vulnerable to the flaw. The group was able to bypass security features built into apps and the smartphones’ operating system. This allowed the research team to redirect the smartphones’ web browsers to different websites and gain controlled access to the affected devices. In a real world environment, such an attack could be used to send fraudulent emails and social network messages, direct users to phishing sites and possibly send incorrect stock information to a phone.
In an effort to promote awareness of this major security risk, the research group has released a free app to the Google Play store, which helps users identify if their device could be subject to this exploit.
An AT&T representative issued a statement to Ars Technica regarding the researchers findings, stating “The report does not provide enough detail for us to confirm a conclusion but we plan to take a look at the issues it raises.” To see a sample of this exploit in action, check out the video embedded below.