Crypto bugs found in 306 Android apps

US researchers find crypto bugs in 306 popular Android appsUnsplash
  • A team of researchers at Columbia University has found over 300 popular Android apps with crypto bugs.
  • Crypto bugs are coding flaws that occur when developers don't follow basic cryptography rules leaving the user and this device vulnerable to exploitation attempts.
  • The research team conducted its analysis across 1,780 Android apps across 33 different categories in the Google Play Store but did not share the list of vulnerable apps since the developers have not fixed the security flaws yet.
Crypto bugs can put mobile app users and their devices at risk. Cryptography rules are basic guidelines that should be followed while coding. Yet, over 300 Android apps were spotted misusing cryptographic code using a new tool called ‘CRYLOGGER’ developed by a team of researchers at Columbia University.

Their analysis of 1,780 Android apps across 33 different Google Play Store categories showed that 306 popular apps were flouting at least one of 26 basic cryptography rules.

“Unfortunately, only 18 developers answered our first email of request and only eight of them followed back with us multiple times providing useful feedback on our findings,” said the report explaining that the researchers reached out to all the apps with more than nine rule violations.

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The apps surveyed have at least hundreds of thousands of downloads, with some crossing the 100 million threshold.

What are crypto bugs?
Crypto bugs or flaws occur when mobile app developers don’t follow the basic rules of coding. This includes things like not using weak passwords, broken encryption and not using HTTPS protocol.

Cryptography rulesCRYLOGGER: Detecting Crypto Misuses Dynamically/Columbia University

Even though these are rules that every mobile developer should be familiar with, those who haven’t studied app security or advanced cryptography may not be aware.
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Top 3 rules broken by mobile apps:
RuleNumber of apps in violation
Don't use an unsafe pseudorandom number generator PRNG1,775 apps
Don't use broken hash functions (SHA1, MD2, MD5, etc.)1,764 apps
Don't use the operation mode CBC (client/server scenarios)1,076 apps

The researchers did not share the names of the apps that feature these vulnerabilities since developers did not respond to the team’s alerts or fix their libraries. They explained that publishing the names could leave the apps open to possible exploitation attempts.

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