Google Describes Privacy, Security Improvements in Android 14


Google this week announced the availability of the first Android 14 developer preview and also shared details on some of the security and privacy improvements the platform update will bring.

Expected to arrive on devices sometime in fall, Android 14 brings new features and APIs, as well as behavioral changes that might impact applications. The purpose of the developer preview is to help application developers learn about these changes and test their applications for compatibility issues.

One of the security enhancements the platform update is set to bring is related to runtime receivers and builds on changes introduced in Android 13, when Google instructed developers to specify whether their application’s registered broadcast receiver should be visible to other apps on the device.

Before Android 13, any application could send unprotected broadcasts to dynamically-registered receivers that were not protected by a signature permission.

To help protect apps from security vulnerabilities, “apps and services that target Android 14 and use context-registered receivers are required to specify a flag to indicate whether or not the receiver should be exported to all other apps on the device,” Google says.

Android 14 also attempts to protect applications from malicious software that might intercept intents, by restricting apps from sending intents internally that do not specify a package.

Additionally, apps can now send implicit intents to exported components only and “must either use an explicit intent to deliver to unexported components, or mark the component as exported”, the internet giant explains.

To prevent malicious use of dynamic code loading (DCL), applications built for Android 14 will have to mark dynamically loaded files as read-only. According to Google, developers should avoid dynamically loading code, as this exposes applications to code injection or code tampering.

Because some malware versions use an API level of 22 (to avoid the runtime permission model introduced in Android 6.0), Android 14 will also prevent the installation of applications that target an API level lower than 23. However, applications with a targetSdkVersion lower than 23 will remain installed.

Android 14 also arrives with Credential Manager, a new Jetpack API that includes support for multiple sign-in methods, including federated sign-in solutions and passkeys, along with the classic username and password pair.

Currently available in alpha, Credential Manager allows users to create passkeys and save them in Google Password Manager, for passwordless authentication across devices, in both Android and Chrome.

Related: Google Migrating Android to Memory-Safe Programming Languages

Related: Google Brings Passkey Support to Android and Chrome

Related: Google Ready to Roll Out Android Privacy Sandbox in Beta

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Android’s February 2023 Updates Patch 40 Vulnerabilities


Google this week announced the release of patches for 40 vulnerabilities as part of the February 2023 security updates for the Android operating system.

The first part of the update arrives on devices as a 2023-02-01 security patch level and resolves a total of 17 high-severity vulnerabilities impacting components such as Framework, Media Framework, and System.

“The most severe of these issues is a high security vulnerability in the Framework component that could lead to local escalation of privilege with no additional execution privileges needed,” Google notes in its advisory.

While most of the vulnerabilities addressed with this patch level could lead to escalation of privilege, several information disclosure and denial-of-service (DoS) bugs were also resolved.

The second part of the update arrives on devices as the 2023-02-05 security patch level and resolves 23 security defects in Kernel, MediaTek, Unisoc, Qualcomm, and Qualcomm closed-source components.

This month, Google also announced fixes for three vulnerabilities specific to Pixel devices. All Pixels running a patch level of 2023-02-05 will be patched against these three bugs and all the issues resolved with Android’s February 2023 security update.

The internet giant also announced the release of one patch as part of this month’s Android Automotive OS (AAOS) update, in addition to the fixes described in the February 2023 Android security bulletin.

As usual, Google notified manufacturers of the addressed issues at least a month before publishing the security bulletins. The company also released source code patches to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) repository.

While Pixel users can already manually grab the latest security fixes, users of other devices will have to wait for their phone makers to release the necessary updates for them.

Related: Android’s First Security Updates for 2023 Patch 60 Vulnerabilities

Related: Over 75 Vulnerabilities Patched in Android With December 2022 Security Updates

Related: Google Patches High-Severity Privilege Escalation Vulnerabilities in Android

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