RAMpage Vulnerability Could Cause Grief on All Modern Android Devices

CVE-2018-9442, which is known as RAMpage in the media, might be a problem with all Android Devices released since 2012. The vulnerability is somewhat of a variant on the Rowhammer problem, which exploits a hardware bug found in modern memory cards. It apparently has to do with the way that semiconductor-based volatile recording technology works.

Researchers conducted tests a few years ago on how repeated read/write cycles influence memory cells. When requests were sent over and over again to the same row of cells, the operations created an electrical field. This field could theoretically alter data stored in other areas of RAM.

These so-called Rowhammer alterations could cause problems on PCs as well as Android devices. Creative use of them could allow for the execution of arbitrary code.

Specifically, the RAMpage vulnerability could hypothetically allow Rowhammer-type attacks using network packets and JavaScript code. Some mobile devices wouldn’t be able to process these attacks properly, and they’re certainly not as severe as those that make use of GPU cards on desktop PCs. Nevertheless, problems with RAM modules shipped since 2012 are concerning enough that researchers are quickly working on a mitigation.

While Cupertino’s engineers were more than likely unaware of this research at the time, fundamental differences in the way that Apple devices are designed means that handsets running iOS may not be as vulnerable as Android ones. A new app claims to be able to test whether or not your device is subject to these vulnerabilities, and it might become a popular download in the next few weeks.

Some Unix security experts have raised concerns about the current state of these apps. While the current one appears to be a well-designed tool, there is a risk that one in the future might not be.

Attackers could post a clean open-source version of a future app coupled with binaries that had exploits. This could cause security-minded individuals to install an exploit.

The current tool is available from official repositories, and it’s developers urge users only to install such tools as they become available from these channels. It’s highly unlikely that anything that comes out of them would fall victim to this particular type of social engineering.

John Rendace

John is a GNU/Linux expert with a hobbyist's background in C/C++, Web development, storage and file system technologies. In his free time, he maintains custom and vintage PC hardware. He's been compiling his own software from source since the DOS days and still prefers using the command line all these years later.