Technology

Your bitcoins on Samsung Galaxy could be in danger

Key facts:
  • A study revealed vulnerabilities in TrustZone hardware, which stores encrypted data.

  • Weeks ago, the brand announced an integrated bitcoin wallet in its Galaxy S22 model.

Cell phones increasingly function as a kind of “portable safe” that each person carries in their pocket. For this reason, security is an essential topic for manufacturers, who resort to cryptographic designs to enhance their security. Even so, a study revealed flaws in Samsung phones that allowed data theft.

In research conducted and published by Alon Shakevsky, Eyal Ronen and Avishai Wool, computer science experts at Tel-Aviv University (Israel), certain security flaws that Samsung devices present are detailed. The title of the study published on February 20, 2022 is Trust dies in the dark: Shedding light on Samsung’s TrustZone Keymaster Design.

According to what the study explains, smartphones with the Android operating system use a hardware support called ARM TrustZone to create a secure execution environment (TEE for its acronym in English). The TEE runs a TrustZone Operating System (TZOS) that is isolated from Android, that is, it works parallel to it.

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Thus, it carries out the most sensitive functions in terms of security. To do this, it also uses cryptographic functions.

The work of Shakevsky, Ronen and Wool tested these features on Samsung Galaxy S8, S9, S10, S20, and S21 phones. These models cover, according to these authors, more than 100 million devices.

The chosen procedure was to reverse engineer the cryptographic design and code structure, and the results showed important failures. The security mechanisms of these devices were affected with a reuse IV attack and through a downgrade attack. These are two hacking techniques that, in short, are intended to make systems more vulnerable and extract protected data from the computer.

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Regarding the first technique, reuse IV, only the S9 showed vulnerability before the software version downgrade. After her, everyone was vulnerable. Also, almost all computers were susceptible to the downgrade attack. Only the S8 proved resistant to that technique.

Technically, this was the composition of the attack carried out in the investigation. Source: eprint.iacr.org

Using these techniques, the researchers were able to steal information even “on the newest devices.” In addition, they claimed that their attacks were able to affect “two high-level cryptographic protocols between TrustZone and a remote server”, as well as to spoof the FIDO2 web API login and “compromise” the function. Secure Key Import of Google.

The reputation of Samsung wallets could be affected

Given the discoveries of these computer scientists, various Samsung products could lose credibility due to their security flaws. Such could be the case of the integrated wallet in its new Galaxy S22 model, about which CriptoNoticias recently reported. It should be noted, however, that this cell phone was not included in the cited study.

These wallets have the capacity to house not only cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin (BTC), but also really sensitive personal information. For example, they serve to store bank account data, passwords, digital assets, identifications, credit cards and even boarding passes. You can even save “blockchain keys” through the use of Knox Vault, a hardware built into the devices for the protection of important information.

Therefore, as the researchers say in the conclusion of their work, manufacturers Samsung and Qualcomm should have their security designs audited and not rely solely on the tests they do. So far, the Korean firm has not expressed itself regarding the results of this study.

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