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Non-Updated Android Phones Vulnerable To NFC Beaming Hacks

By November 15, 2019May 9th, 2022Cybersecurity

Has it been more than a month since you upgraded your Android OS?

If so, you should make upgrading a priority.

Just over a month ago, Google patched a critical flaw in the Android OS that allowed hackers to “beam” malware to any unpatched devices via a process called ‘NFC Beaming’.

It relies on a service called Android Beam that allows an Android device to send videos, apps, images, or other files to a nearby device using Near-Field Communication (NFC) radio waves as an alternative to Bluetooth or WiFi.  It’s a great technology and a handy capability but sadly, its implementation was flawed.

Fortunately, the flaw was unearthed by an independent security researcher who alerted Google to the problem.  Even worse, when files are sent in this manner, the user would not get a prompt warning them that an app was attempting to be installed from an “unknown source.”

If there’s a silver lining in all of this, it is the fact that NFC connections are only initiated when two devices are sitting close to each other. By ‘close’ we mean really close.  The range is limited to 4 centimeters (about an inch and a half).  This limits the attack vector’s utility quite sharply.

Even so, it’s something to be aware of, especially if you travel frequently. It’s well worth grabbing Google’s latest update for Android Oreo if you haven’t already done so.  The alternative to this course of action is to go into your Android settings and disable Android Beam and NFC if it’s a feature you seldom use anyway.

Kudos to the sharp-eyed researcher who caught the bug, and to Google, who responded swiftly and issued a fix for the issue.

Jason Manteiga

Jason J. Manteiga, Vice President of Olmec Systems, has been part of the company for over the past 20 years. He believes that having a great work environment and supportive team, is the ultimate key to success. Since being in the IT realm for over 25 years, Jason, along with Olmec Systems, has been on the Inc. 5000 “List of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies” and Channel Futures MSP 501 “Top Managed Service Providers in North America,” along with other awards and nominations. Jason earned his Bachelor Degree in Information Systems from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He also holds certifications in Microsoft MCSE, VMWare VCP, and Cisco CCNA. In his spare time, Jason is a contributor for The Center for Social & Legal Research (Privacy Exchange) and a member of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce. His hobbies include cycling and kayaking. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife, two daughters and son.