A recently fixed vulnerability in the BlackPhone instant messaging application gave attackers the ability to decrypt messages, steal contacts, and control vital functions of the device, which is marketed as a more secure way to protect communications from government and criminal snoops.
Mark Dowd, a principal consultant with Australia-based Azimuth Security, said would-be attackers needed only a user’s Silent Circle ID or phone number to remotely exploit the bug. From there, the attacker could surreptitiously decrypt and read messages, read contacts, monitor geographic locations of the phone, write code or text to the phone’s external storage, and enumerate the accounts stored on the device. He said engineers at BlackPhone designer Silent Circle fixed the underlying bug after he privately reported it to them.
The vulnerability resided in SilentText, the secure text messaging application bundled with the BlackPhone and also as a free Android App in Google Play. A component known as libscimp contained a type of memory corruption flaw known as a type confusion vulnerability. Libscimp is the BlackPhone implementation of the Silent Circle Instant Messaging Protocol (SCIMP) and runs on top of the extensible messaging and presence protocol (XMPP). SCIMP is used to create secure end-to-end channels between people sending text messages. It handles the transportation of the encrypted data through the channel.
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