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Thousands of Android Devices Running Insecure Remote ADB Service

June 13, 2018

By: Swati Khandelwal

Despite warnings about the threat of leaving insecure remote services enabled on Android devices, manufacturers continue to ship devices with open ADB debug port setups that leave Android-based devices exposed to hackers.

Android Debug Bridge (ADB) is a command-line feature that generally uses for diagnostic and debugging purposes by helping app developers communicate with Android devices remotely to execute commands and, if necessary, completely control a device.

Usually, developers connect to ADB service installed on Android devices using a USB cable, but it is also possible to use ADB wirelessly by enabling a daemon server at TCP port 5555 on the device.

If left enabled, unauthorized remote attackers can scan the Internet to find a list of insecure Android devices running ADB debug interface over port 5555, remotely access them with highest “root” privileges, and then silently install malware without any authentication.

Therefore, vendors are recommended to make sure that the ADB interface for their Android devices is disabled before shipping. However, many vendors are failing to do so.

In a Medium blog post published Monday, security researcher Kevin Beaumont said there are still countless Android-based devices, including smartphones, DVRs, Android smart TVs, and even tankers, that are still exposed online.

“This is highly problematic as it allows anybody — without any password — to remotely access these devices as ‘root’* — the administrator mode — and then silently install software and execute malicious functions,” Beaumont said.

The threat is not theoretical, as researchers from Chinese security firm Qihoo 360’s NetLab discovered a worm, dubbed ADB.Miner, earlier this year, that was exploiting the ADB interface to infect insecure Android devices with a Monero (XMR) mining malware.


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