Security Researcher Publishes How-To Guide To Crack Android Full Disk Encryption

An anonymous reader writes: Google first implemented Full Disk Encryption in Android by default with Android 5.0 Lollipop in an effort to prevent criminals or government agencies from gaining unauthorized access to one’s data. What it does is it encodes all the data on a user’s Android device before it’s ever written to disk using a user’s authentication code. Once it is encrypted, it can only be decrypted if the user enters his/her password. However, security researcher Gal Beniamini has discovered issues with the full disk encryption. He published a step-by-step guide on how one can break down the encryption protections on Android devices powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. The source of the exploit is posted on GitHub. Android’s disk encryption on devices with Qualcomm chips is based only on your password. However, Android uses your password to create a 2048-bit RSA key (KeyMaster) derived from it instead. Qualcomm specifically runs in the Snapdragon TrustZone to protect critical functions like encryption and biometric scanning, but Beniamini discovered that it’s possible to exploit a security flaw and retrieve the keys from TrustZone. Qualcomm runs a small kernel in TrustZone to offer a Trusted Execution Environment known as Qualcomm Secure Execution Environment (QSEE), which allows small apps to run inside of QSEE away from the main Android OS. Beniamini has detailed a way for attackers to exploit an Android kernel security flaw to load their own QSEE app inside this secure environment, thereby exploiting privilege escalation flaw and hijacking of the complete QSEE space, including the keys generated for full disk encryption. The researcher also said Qualcomm or OEMs can comply with government or law enforcement agencies to break the FDE: “Since the key is available to TrustZone, Qualcomm and OEMs [Original Equipment Manufacturers] could simply create and sign a TrustZone image which extracts the KeyMaster keys and flash it to the target device,” Beniamini wrote. “This would allow law enforcement to easily brute force the FDE password off the device using the leaked keys.”

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