A major vulnerability has been discovered in the vast majority of Android phones, allowing hackers to take over the devices with an MMS message.
Security research firm Zimpirium discovered the flow, now dubbed "Stagefright," while working with the platform. The glitch allows the sender of an MMS (multimedia messaging service) message to hijack the device to steal data and photos, take over the phone's microphone or camera or many other actions.
The message appears to be a video at first, but upon opening it the user realizes the video is not playable. However, just opening the video is enough to give the sender access to the device. On some software versions or messaging applications, MMS messages are automatically opened, meaning the hacker needs only to send the message in order to compromise the phone.
Stagefright affects the current version of Android, version 5.1 or Lollipop, and is present in prior software iterations all the way back to version 2.2, or Froyo. According to Fortune, that affects roughly 95 percent of all Android devices currently on the market. Where Android began life as an open source platform, any other device that used the operating system as the basis for their software, such as Amazon's Fire tablet and phone product line, is also susceptible so long as it was based on Android 2.2 or later and has the ability to receive MMS messages.
In a statement to Fortune, Google thanked Zimpirium for uncovering the flaw.
"The security of Android users is extremely important to us and so we responded quickly and patches have already been provided to partners that can be applied to any device. Most Android devices, including all newer devices, have multiple technologies that are designed to make exploitation more difficult. Android devices also include an application sandbox designed to protect user data and other applications on the device," said Google.
Google has already updated the most recent devices in their first-party Nexus product line to nullify the threat and has made the update available to other manufacturers to apply to their devices.
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