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Google Has Android Remote App Install Power, Too

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the coming-and-going dept.

Google 278

Trailrunner7 writes "The remote-wipe capability that Google recently invoked to remove a harmless application from some Android phones isn't the only remote control feature that the company built into its mobile OS. It turns out that Android also includes a feature that enables Google to remotely install apps on users' phones as well. Jon Oberheide, the security researcher who developed the application that Google remotely removed from Android phones, noticed during his research that the Android OS includes a feature called INSTALL_ASSET that allows Google to remotely install applications on users' phones. 'I don't know what design decision they based that on. Maybe they just figured since they had the removal mechanism, it's easy to have the install mechanism too,' Oberheide said in an interview. 'I don't know if they've used it yet.'"

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278 comments

They also removed the restraining bold from C3PO (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699504)

Google has been taken over by Jawas.

Re:They also removed the restraining bold from C3P (2, Informative)

drcosquared (1720540) | about 4 years ago | (#32699756)

It was Luke who removed the restraining bolt from R2D2.

kinda scary (5, Insightful)

grapeape (137008) | about 4 years ago | (#32699506)

So how long until we see someone attempt to exploit this?

Re:kinda scary (5, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 4 years ago | (#32699606)

How long until someone exploits this? Well, I bet Google or some other vendor will try to sell it as part of an offering for businesses within the next 2 years. Remote software installs would be very useful in the enterprise.

Re:kinda scary (5, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | about 4 years ago | (#32699676)

I think that remote anything should be opt-in by the user, or, in an enterprise setting, should be added on by the enterprise before distributing the units. I do not welcome the idea that *all* Android handsets will have remote add/remove package functionality out of the box, for all users.

Imagine the fun law enforcement and government agencies will have with this. Remote install app that silently forwards mic input to an eavesdropper.

Is there even a way to turn this feature off? I.e., lets say I buy a handset and I definitely do *not* want Google nuking my apps remotely or adding apps to my phone remotely without my knowledge.

This is the reason that I think the FOSS community should back MeeGo. It's the only *true* open source system out there that's open enough that the Many Eyeballs principle can be applied to, and that is open enough that we'll eventually see custom distros of the OS emerging.

Re:kinda scary (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699752)

Imagine the fun law enforcement and government agencies will have with this. Remote install app that silently forwards mic input to an eavesdropper.

Then they can remote install some kiddy porn images so they have excuse to raid his house and confiscate all his computer equipment.

Re:kinda scary (2, Interesting)

rwa2 (4391) | about 4 years ago | (#32700138)

Meh, they have that kind of software for almost all phones. http://flexispy.com/ [flexispy.com] and plenty others, I'm sure.

I suppose it might be nefarious that they don't even need physical access to your phone to install it. But the install feature probably asks for user confirmation before receiving a "push" install from your carrier, just like my cheap Samsung dumbphone.

If you really want control, I suppose you could put http://www.cyanogenmod.com/ [cyanogenmod.com] on your Android phone. Is that affected?

Re:kinda scary (5, Interesting)

MikeDaSpike (1196169) | about 4 years ago | (#32700280)

Not to mention, google already announced you will be using this feature before. If you haven't seen this years google I/O then I'll tell you: you will be able to install apps on your phone from any device in the cloud.

And besides, it's not like google is targeting you specificaly, they target all phones with that app installed. The purpose of it is to remove a malicious app before it can do any more damage.

Example: I make an app branded as a porn site viewer, it works as one but it also sends information gathered from your sdcard/phone for some nefarious deeds. Removing it from the market would stop the app from spreading, but it has already been installed on thousands of phones, setting a flag on the market for "uninstall from phone NOW" would fix this.

I know google could be more gentle about it and warn the user and ask for the app to be removed, but it's not like they use it on every app that pisses them, only on those that disregard their stated rules. So far google has been following the rules, so articles like this are just spreading FUD.

Re:kinda scary (5, Funny)

AnAdventurer (1548515) | about 4 years ago | (#32700024)

I am working one it. Just one more line of code, almost there.

Re:kinda scary (5, Informative)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 4 years ago | (#32700246)

I am working one it. Just one more line of code, almost there.

I like to lick butts!

Re:kinda scary (5, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 4 years ago | (#32700268)

Wait! I didn't post that!!

Re:kinda scary (2, Insightful)

gregor-e (136142) | about 4 years ago | (#32700126)

An exploit for remote app installs should come about as soon as an exploit for the automatic OS update feature. Chances are good they both use similar protections.

Good thing that wasn't Apple (5, Funny)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | about 4 years ago | (#32699508)

Slashdot headline would have been:

"Evil Apple Hides Secret Rootkit Installer on All iPhones"

Re:Good thing that wasn't Apple (4, Funny)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about 4 years ago | (#32699586)

Then it wouldn't have been news. :P

Re:Good thing that wasn't Apple (2, Funny)

chromas (1085949) | about 4 years ago | (#32699620)

"Apple Hides Secret Rootkit Installer on iPhone 4"
There, now it's news.

Re:Good thing that wasn't Apple (4, Funny)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#32699848)

No, no, the real news is "Disable hidden secret Apple rootkit by holding iPhone in left hand!"

Re:Good thing that wasn't Apple (1)

chromas (1085949) | about 4 years ago | (#32699956)

NO DON'T DO THAT!!12three
You know there's digital encryption involved and they're monitoring it. If you purposely cover it then you are violating the DMCA and they'll send teh goverments after you.

Are we reading the same Slashdot? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699700)

I don't think we're reading the same Slashdot. Even when Apple does stuff that's far, far worse than Microsoft ever managed to, the headlines here at Slashdot are neutral, if not somewhat supportive of Apple.

Re:Good thing that wasn't Apple (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | about 4 years ago | (#32699960)

Slashdot headline would have been:

"Evil Apple Hides Secret Rootkit Installer on All iPhones"

Any moment now, people will start saying that Google is the New Apple, which is the New Microsoft, which is the New...what? Commodore?

Re:Good thing that wasn't Apple (4, Informative)

ChatHuant (801522) | about 4 years ago | (#32699978)

Any moment now, people will start saying that Google is the New Apple, which is the New Microsoft, which is the New...what? Commodore?

IBM, grasshopper, Microsoft used to be the new IBM. Learn your history!

the... (0, Offtopic)

prozaker (1261190) | about 4 years ago | (#32699510)

Foxdie program continues

Drive-by installing (0, Troll)

kickme_hax0r (968593) | about 4 years ago | (#32699514)

I'm sure someone could create a honeypot wifi network that forces all Android devices that connect to it to install a particular app. Maybe it'll even teach people to stop wardriving.

No (3, Insightful)

Mr2001 (90979) | about 4 years ago | (#32699540)

I'm sure someone could create a honeypot wifi network that forces all Android devices that connect to it to install a particular app.

Not unless they manage to compromise SSL in order to make the phone think it's talking to Google when it really isn't. If someone manages to do that, we have much bigger things to worry about than a malicious phone app.

Re:No (3, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | about 4 years ago | (#32699866)

And yet we see flaws in SSL [zdnet.co.uk] periodically.

Such flaws are why professional developers do not put in random features that can be exploited. Sure it might be fun toi say that our application has a thousand more features than the competition, but to those that are savvy it is just a thousand more way to be put at risk.

Re:No (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | about 4 years ago | (#32699928)

I'm not sure if you're ignorant or just a troll.

In any case, SSL is responsible for securing all updates, OS or app. Break Google's SSL, you've compromised all of the features, and you're not going to bother installing a crippled Android app, because you have root on a full-fledged Linux handheld.

Re:No (1)

santiagodraco (1254708) | about 4 years ago | (#32700220)

So you don't think Google's professional and you think that the things they do are random? Interesting....

Re:No (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699876)

Actually, this moves android from "my next phone" to a "definite maybe".

I do NOT like back doors. This makes the SSL Cert that would be used to prove one is google a very valuable target indeed. It really makes me wonder if it is a question of "if" or "when". On top of that, why should I trust google with this? If something needs to be installed, on MY PHONE, I want to be, at least, asked.

-Steve

Re:No (4, Funny)

bertoelcon (1557907) | about 4 years ago | (#32699954)

-Steve

Woz, doesn't Apple give you Iphones anyway?

Re:No (2, Interesting)

bm_luethke (253362) | about 4 years ago | (#32699994)

My suggestion is that you rely on a land line phone then (were I that worried over it I would go with a vintage rotary phone too - no computer to futz with). All cell phones I know of can add or remove features without your permission. Some may choose not to do so, some may regularly do it, but they all do. Even worse an iPhone, Blackberry, or an Android are *not* phones, they are handheld computers that just so happen to have a cellular device attached to them. You LG flip phone that has no apps other than what is on the rom is fairly stable, your smart phone is a computer and has all the issues associated with a general purpose computer along with the access that the carriers have always wanted but could never demand before. Some are claiming an N900 can't have this happen but before I made that statement I would want some independent party to verify, not just the assumption it can't from what I have seen. The competition that the /. crowd is mostly looking at (the iPhone) is just as bad with respect to ability to do things but hasn't decided to do so (yet) - the Blackberrys fall into the same boat.

Pretty much every carrier out there has these abilities, they do so for a number of reasons (few of them are for your benefit though) and that isn't going to change. Indeed, even just the plain cell phone will generally have features they can remotely turn off and on. The iPhone (and IIRC the new 2.2 androids) can be remotely bricked (sold to us a security feature). I have not seen Google do anything that would particularly make them untrustworthy compared to everyone else - indeed I find them better than most (at least they are upfront about the things I do not like instead of lying to me or trying to convince me that raping me is a Good Thing). That is, of course, a kinda loaded statement as I have little trust for any one else - but since I have no choice but to play in that world they are as good as any of the better ones out there. I treat my phone access like any other non-secure communication - I assume anyone and everyone can see it. For secure access I assume most people can see it.

Plus as the GP says - if the SSL cert is broken then the ability to remote install apps on your phone is the least of our worries. Most phones can be bricked remotely not to mention all the secure sites that rely on x.509 certificates.

Re:No (1)

santiagodraco (1254708) | about 4 years ago | (#32700234)

Curious.

You do know that phone companies have had this capability for years, right? They can, and do, pretty much anything they want to the remote platforms in the way of remote pushes of new features/capabilities/apps/etc. The extent of which they can do so will of course vary by model and capabilities of the device, but this should not be news to anyone.

Doesn't necessarily make it right, but not surprising in any event.

Re:No (2, Insightful)

Mr2001 (90979) | about 4 years ago | (#32700392)

Actually, this moves android from "my next phone" to a "definite maybe".

I do NOT like back doors.

You always have the option to root your phone and install a third-party build of Android that doesn't have this feature. (Unlike a certain other company, Google doesn't claim that you'd be breaking the law by doing so.)

This makes the SSL Cert that would be used to prove one is google a very valuable target indeed.

As if it isn't already? If you can impersonate Google, you can access everyone's Gmail, AdSense, AdWords, Docs, etc.

Re:No (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 years ago | (#32700372)

That's no problem, since bugs are frequently found in SSL implementations.

SSL is a complicated protocol, not a simple one, and it's prone to discovered (and undiscovered) programming errors.

Re:Drive-by installing (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#32699594)

Yeah because wardriving is soooo terrible. Look, if you don't want people connecting to your wi-fi network hide the SSD and encrypt it securely. If not, then does it matter too much if you lose a few bytes of data? There are very, very, few people who are going to bother even trying to break an encrypted connection, especially when they can go to a cafe and get free internet pretty much everywhere.

Re:Drive-by installing (1)

Bozzio (183974) | about 4 years ago | (#32699780)

Look, if you don't want people connecting to your wi-fi network hide the SSD and encrypt it securely

Encrypt it with what, WEP? That would help just as much as not broadcasting your ssid (and, for that matter, as much as MAC filtering). Honestly, these three approaches to "security" won't stop anyone who knows how to book a BackTrack liveCD.

Re:Drive-by installing (2, Informative)

EricJ2190 (1016652) | about 4 years ago | (#32699806)

You know, we actually have a secure WiFi encryption protocol now. It is called WPA.

Re:Drive-by installing (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#32699850)

Depending upon the specifics, it's not that much more secure than WEP was when it was introduced. I think the take home on that is that perhaps involving qualified crypto experts and security experts to design that part of the specification is a good thing. Sure it's never going to be 100% secure, but it's almost laughable how quickly the protection turns out to be easily breached.

Re:Drive-by installing (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32700056)

You're just flat wrong. WPA isn't compromised in any way even remotely as badly as WEP was/is.

WPA:TKIP can, in certain cases with certain AP's allow one to inject packets into the network. Packets won't come back to the attacker.
Perhaps one can use that as a way to leverage some additional resources to attack a network. Certainly, I wouldn't feel good with someone being able to inject packets - but it's not a game-over exploit like WEP was.

WPA-AES: There's simply no known attack against the cypher. You might be able to brute-force the key - but that's an issue of any shared-secret system - it doesn't have anything to do with the crypto in WPA:AES. The solution is to use a large key-space (all ascii characters, not just uppercase alpha's for example.) and long-ish. 10 chars or more. Bonus points for more random and less guessable secrets.

So, IMO, to claim "...it's not that much more secure than WEP was when it was introduced." is really a massive overstatement due to ignorance, at best or just plain falsehoods at worst.

Re:Drive-by installing (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#32699832)

Yeah, and really how many people do you think are going to bother? Lets face it, there are a lot easier targets out there to hack for some script kiddie. For a really, really good black hat cracker they'd need some kind of personal motivation (such as bragging that your network at XXXX address is unhackable) for them to bother.

Lets face it, chances are your neighbors aren't 1337 h@x0rz who are just looking to get into your router and redirect all requests to Goatse, the guy out in his car just wants free wi-fi to check Facebook most probably and the rare hacker is going to pick easier targets.

Unless you personally piss off some black-hat cracker, you live next to one, or you happen to live right next to where Defcon is being held, no one is going to bother to hack your wi-fi because no one cares.

Seriously, if everyone was a 1337 computer knowledgeable cracker, we wouldn't have all these crappy computer "help" and installation centers across the country who charge $30 to pop in a PCI card or $50 to spend 5 minutes clicking "next" buttons.

Re:Drive-by installing (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | about 4 years ago | (#32699972)

... or $50 to spend 5 minutes clicking "next" buttons.

That's only $50 dollars an hour, you insensitive clod! Here's the breakdown:
5 minutes of clicking next buttons
55 minutes of WoW (or Minesweeper, Tetris, Facebook, Slashdot, what-have-you).

This so obviously merits $50/hour!

Call me clueless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699526)

What was wrong with Linux?

Re:Call me clueless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699576)

Clueless, happy now?

Re:Call me clueless (0, Offtopic)

larry bagina (561269) | about 4 years ago | (#32699578)

You're clueless.

Re:Call me clueless (4, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | about 4 years ago | (#32700146)

Google wanted control so they pushed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_(operating_system) [wikipedia.org]
GPLv2 to bait you in, Apache 2.0 to close you down if needed.
You write the 'free' apps, hunt bugs, preach about the 'freedoms', Google tracks, sells ads, data mines, a push and profit with a sting in the tail it seems.

Does this apply to ROMs as well? (1)

gimmebeer (1648629) | about 4 years ago | (#32699532)

Curious as to how this applies to custom ROMs and rooted Android devices. More specifically, since this is a known capability now when will we seem ROMs that specifically disable these features?

Really? (5, Interesting)

parc (25467) | about 4 years ago | (#32699542)

You mean they can remotely install apps over the air just like every other modern phone on every other carrier I've ever seen?

This is a non-story -- OTA install is pretty much required by every carrier out there so they can force you to upgrade your phone.

Re:Really? (3, Interesting)

gimmebeer (1648629) | about 4 years ago | (#32699572)

A new OS version or patch, sure. An app, not so much. My Android phones doesn't OTA update without prompting me and me approving it. The meat of the article, in my understanding, is that they have a function that will automagically install or remove an app without user interaction. Is that not correct?

Re:Really? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699592)

A new OS version or patch, sure. An app, not so much. My Android phones doesn't OTA update without prompting me and me approving it. The meat of the article, in my understanding, is that they have a function that will automagically install or remove an app without user interaction. Is that not correct?

As far as I can tell, Yes. One instance I could see/understand is for this is Google provided programs that are included with the phone (Maps, Gmail, Browser, ext) being forced to a newer version.

Re:Really? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#32699598)

Yes but think about it, if there is a terrible vulnerability in the browser, I think I'd like Google to patch it even if it didn't have an entire new kernel and the like.

Chances are your browser is going to be the most targeted part of any OS and it is an app.

Re:Really? (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 4 years ago | (#32699878)

Yes but think about it, if there is a terrible vulnerability in the browser, I think I'd like Google to patch it

I would prefer that Google didn't put a browser on my phone that contains a "terrible vulnerability".

Re:Really? (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#32699902)

Right, because we all know that there are perfectly secure computers. Perfectly secure software. Silly Google for not adding in Perfectly Secure Browser V 1.0

Lets face it, the only secure computer is one in a perfectly secure vault, powered off and has the only person know where the vault is killed.

Re:Really? (1)

Americano (920576) | about 4 years ago | (#32699982)

If it's google software, it's "Perfectly Secure Browser (Beta!)" and will remain so for a good couple years before it reaches v 1.0.

Re:Really? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 years ago | (#32700048)

Don't you think that Google should have some user interaction with the update so when the terribly vulnerable security fix version breaks my crappy app for work, I know I need to yell at the developers to fix it and point them in the right direction?

I mean that's a big problem with windows automatic updates. Well, not so much any more, but it used to be that someone would update the OS, then some app or piece of hardware would break, and then you spend 10 hours attempting to figure out why it worked the night before but not today- not knowing that they just updated their OS because Microsoft wouldn't ever be the cause of something like that. The worst part is that it only broke on one out of 20 computers.

I'm glad windows now has the ability to lock users out of the updates until it can be approved before installing.

Re:Really? (5, Interesting)

Hizonner (38491) | about 4 years ago | (#32699674)

Actually, according to a talk by Rich Cannings, Google's "Android Security Leader", at Usenix Security '09 in Montreal, Google can choose whether or not to have your phone ask you for permission for an OS upgrade. If they think it's important enough, they reserve the "right", and definitely retain the technical capability, to install an upgrade without asking. The carriers can probably also do OTA upgrades on their own initiative; that part wasn't clear to me.

The whole tone of his talk was scary. There was no sign that he could imagine that somebody might not want to trust Google with total control of their phone, or that such distrust could possibly be legitimate if it did exist. His whole attitude reeked of "we know better than you do", and he seemed to think of the phone's owner more as a security threat than as the person who should be setting security policy. And he didn't even mention the possibility that Google might get compromised.

He also seemed to think of the Android open source project as something to push code to as an afterthought, rather less important than the carriers... whose interests he seemed to think were terribly, terribly important.

It was not reassuring.

And, yes, my understanding matches yours. The article says that they can also install apps, in addition to OTA OS upgrades. In fact, as I read the supporting material, the Market application works by pushing an "INSTALL_ASSET" message to your phone... the same message they'd use to spontaneously install an app. So there's no fixing the problem without either disabling the Market entirely or patching the implementing code.

And of course an OS upgrade could contain code to do anything they want, including enabling them to install apps if they weren't already able to do so.

Re:Really? (5, Insightful)

TheEyes (1686556) | about 4 years ago | (#32699822)

...he seemed to think of the phone's owner more as a security threat than as the person who should be setting security policy.

To be fair, he does have a point, if in fact that was his view. I mean, how many zombified PCs are out there now, DDoSing servers and spamming the planet, just because their owners can't manage (at a bare minimum) to enable Automatic Updates? Millions? Tens of millions?

I know hating Google is in vogue these days, but let's be honest here: so far, they're no Microsoft. They're not a convicted monopoly; they've gone out of their way to invest real resources in opening their services, actually spending money to make it easier for people to migrate away from Gmail and Google Docs; they sponsor and promote open source; and they compete by constantly making their products better, rather than trying to strong-arm people into buying their junk. So yeah, until they show otherwise, I'm going to be cautiously optimistic and give them the benefit of the doubt.

The question is, is there a way for paranoid individuals to turn this capability off if they want to. Let the Joe Sixpacks of the world live in blissful ignorance, and let Google keep them from bringing the cell networks down with their inability to properly patch and protect their phones; just give me the ability to opt out if I know the risks, and choose to take them.

Re:Really? (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | about 4 years ago | (#32700020)

The question is, is there a way for paranoid individuals to turn this capability off if they want to.

There shouldn't be, for all the reasons you gave in support of why users really ARE a security threat rather than the ones who should be setting security policy for their phones. If the question is "does Google or the owner know better whether or not something should be installed?" the answer can't be "Google, but they should make a checkbox that says 'lulz just kidding, I'm smarter, turn it off.'" It's not logically consistent. Whether "Google" was the right answer or even if that was the right question is, of course, a different matter.

Re:Really? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32700036)

The whole tone of his talk was scary. There was no sign that he could imagine that somebody might not want to trust Google with total control of their phone, or that such distrust could possibly be legitimate if it did exist.

Yeah, if I don't want to trust a company to have control over the device that I hold in my hand. I definitely must to get the device from the said company that publicly acknowledge that they have control over the device.

Re:Really? (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 years ago | (#32700086)

There was no sign that he could imagine that somebody might not want to trust Google with total control of their phone,

There's no such thing as trusting them with partial control of your phone because if they can push anything to your phone they can probably root it. So either install your own distribution of Android (perhaps CM) and disable this functionality or accept that others will be helping you manage your phone.

Re:Really? (2, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | about 4 years ago | (#32699702)

Just because the updates which have come out already have asked you to update doesn't mean that is a prerequisite. You are implying ("An app, not so much.") that other phones can't update an app. Not true. "Every other phone" allows carriers to to do over the air updates. If they want to do an app, they can, by pushing a full image which includes that app. That Android is more modular, and allows_just_ an app to be pushed should be considered a benefit, as it allows a less risky way of updating things. Whether Android or not, the carrier has control.

Except, since Android is open, one can expect that "ROM" developers will make available images (at least on phones where privilege escalation has been achieved) which don't allow this, assuming there's demand for it. Try blocking updates on "every other phone."

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699936)

For image updates, they have blocked them. For app updates/[un]installs, they can't... the market app is closed-source. I think there was a reverse-engineered OSS replacement, but that's all I know.

Re:Really? (3, Insightful)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | about 4 years ago | (#32699748)

The line between OS version and app is entirely arbitrary, and Google is working to move more of the OS functionality into apps.

From a security standpoint, if Google has access to this, they have access to the OS anyway, installing/removing apps is not a big deal. They already have root on your device (and you don't.)

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699604)

OTA updates and installing an APP are in a bit a different category...

Installing a phone OS update (or part of it) compared to installing an app made by (possible) 3rd party, which is not part of the actual phone OS ...

Re:Really? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#32699644)

The difference is, an App could very well be a part of the OS (for example the browser) it just isn't part of the Kernel/UI. A critical flaw in the browser certainly warrants a quick update. Plus, OS updates might not always come to phones. With no OS level updates coming to some phones due to manufacture/carrier apathy vulnerabilities need to be fixed somehow, and OTA updates are a good way of doing it for phones who can't support the new technologies with new Android versions.

Re:Really? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699716)

my old blackberry had a similar feature; which was often exploited by verizon wireless to push icons for new apps and services to my phone without my permission and there was nothing i could do about it...

Re:Really? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#32699920)

My guess is though, Google isn't going to do that. Carriers are their number one hindrance to innovation.

Really Really Really? No. (5, Funny)

Kludge (13653) | about 4 years ago | (#32699800)

My "most modern phone", the N900, is not bound to any carrier, and I am quite certain that my carrier does not have the ability or a clue how to install anything on it. I'm root. Not them.

Apple and Android folks: Enjoy being someone else's bitch.

Was this post obnoxious? Yes, in a very nerdy way.

Re:Really Really Really? No. (0)

Vegeta99 (219501) | about 4 years ago | (#32699962)

I mean, be obnoxious all, I was too when I had a WinMo phone - I could replace my radio with a random noise generator if I pleased!

But, I just upgraded to iOS 4 on my iPhone 3G, and the second the phone booted, it was jailbroken (thanks, Sn0wbreeze!), and about 5 minutes later, I had the mysterious "Apple Kill Switch" turned off.

My phone runs whatever code I want it to, and yes, the process was just as easy as rooting your Android phone.

(Plus, my car adapter is definitely better than yours :P)

Re:Really Really Really? No. (4, Informative)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | about 4 years ago | (#32700332)

Well the process would be just as hard on Android but he isn't running Android.
His phone has an officially supported root mode. The root mode isn't killed by updates. It doesn't stop the updates from working. Nor does it prevent you using any applications you could use before like the app store. It doesn't void your warranty. It doesn't require a re-flash.

So no, the process of getting root for you wasn't as easy for you as it was for the GP.

Re:Really Really Really? No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699984)

App installs don't require root privileges. That would be an inherently stupid design.

I assume there is some level of permission on the Android that lets a service/app modify the APK sources. I would assume this is what Google's Apps Installer is already assigned.

Re:Really Really Really? No. (1)

EricX2 (670266) | about 4 years ago | (#32700060)

Does it work with Verizon? What about Sprint? You must live in a modern country where the choice of GSM carries isn't limited to horrible (AT&T) or horrible (T-Mobile). The other providers are slightly more horrible due to them using proprietary phones. I'll take being raped by AT&T with my unlocked phone over being raped by Verizon with my Verizon phone.

Re:Really Really Really? No. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32700466)

Connectivity:
GSM+GPRS+EDGE+UMTS+3G+WCDMA+HSPA at 850/900/1700/1800/1900/2100

So yes it supports all of those networks

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699824)

IIRC OTA updates can be prevented by flashing a new recovery image that replaces the flash_image binary with one that requires the update to be signed with a custom key (like this image does [xda-developers.com] ).

I guess the same thing can be done with the marketplace app, but then it loses a lot of its functionality.

And to address something another AC brought up... Google's apps (Maps, Gmail, Browser, ...) are all voluntarily updated, automatically, by adding a new notification status entry. Ditto for all other (non-Google) apps. IIRC it even prompts when running the market app.

Re:Really? (1)

whatajoke (1625715) | about 4 years ago | (#32700436)

Nokia phones do not have this "american feature".
And I am happy with that.

Intelligentia (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699582)

I think the name is what's most interesting -- INSTALL_ASSET - that has a distinctly govt feel to it. Gotta wonder.

Android Dev Blog (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699610)

Android developers blog ( http://android-developers.blogspot.com/2010/06/exercising-our-remote-application.html ) only says that they have removal power. But if INSTALL_ASSET is true - it might have something to do with the "Go to a website and send a link to your Android device to open it directly on the Device's browser or Maps App as the case may be" feature that they announced at Google IO(I forgot if / what they called it something). So you send may be a intent to install a new App that you saw on some website and it would install it automatically. This *could* be made to work securely - i.e. requiring your Google Account authentication to be able to send install intents. But if there is a bug somewhere - it could have dire consequences.

Not so terrible (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#32699616)

Really, this makes a bit more sense than having 234234234324234 OS updates every year. The majority of updates can be done by removing/updating apps, not to mention security patches. Really, some phones already have the latest Android they will ever get, barring rooting. But people will keep using that phone for 4+ years, that is a long time to have a security flaw out there that could steal information. Since the browser is going to be the main attack vector which is an app, it makes sense.

While this could be used to push more carrier crapware, I think updates and upgrades of installed apps are more likely to work for more phones and easier for the average user to use.

In all honesty, would you rather be using an outdated version of a browser with security flaws because your phone doesn't support Android 2.75 Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie or just have your browser update to a more secure version OTA?

Re:Not so terrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699668)

But you are assuming that you installed the app in a 1st place...

What I'm gathering here is that they could install a brand new app for you ... how do you feel about that?

Re:Not so terrible (1, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#32699730)

Ok, so Google can install new apps to give new features? Not really sure what I should be worried about... Yes I know they -could- install in new applications which are completely evil provided by Sprint/T-Mobile/Verizon/AT&T but I'm not sure if Google would end up doing that because carriers really hold back Android more than anything else.

There is competition now in the phone market, Google doesn't want to screw up anything because I could go to iOS, BlackBerry OS, WinMobile, Symbian, or heck, I could just root my phone and remove the crap.

Google attracts the people who don't want to play games and jump through hoops like you have to with Windows Mobile or the iPhone. Google knows this and wouldn't want to kill their main vocal market.

Re:Not so terrible (3, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 4 years ago | (#32699854)

As the android user base gets more mainstream, the "vocal" nerds will be drowned out by people who just want cute shit.

This crowd will accept what-ever crapware the carriers want them to have, they always have....and Google won't find it so hard to just give in.

Inevitably, the OTA install function will be abused.

Re:Not so terrible (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#32699890)

But Google won't see a point in installing crapware OTA. Google has no "YOU MUST DO THINGS OUR WAY" like Apple does, Google also is blocked from really innovating because of the carriers, I have little doubt in my mind that if Google didn't think that carriers would make a huge deal about it, Android would have tethering from the beginning and a lot of other features.

If worse comes to worse I have little doubt in my mind that Google will keep top-tier phones free from crap similar to the Nexus One and the G1 Dev Phone.

Re:Not so terrible (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 4 years ago | (#32700188)

like Apple does ? Apple is clear about its installer and updates.
Google has just been noted for its push and pull reach. Something that the open source community seems to view as very DRM, Apple, Sony, MS like.
Apple, Sony, MS may talk about open code and have set views on it, but Google actively uses it for the total OS look and feel.
Thats why this is so interesting. Messing with a users phone in both directions, install and removal is something new.
Google seems to be doing fine in innovating too with legal ideas of world wide 'mistakes', remote software and ads.

Re:Not so terrible (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 years ago | (#32700390)

, the "vocal" nerds will be drowned out by people who just want cute shit.

" The user's going to pick dancing pigs over security every time." --Bruce Schneier

Re:Not so terrible (4, Insightful)

Americano (920576) | about 4 years ago | (#32700012)

Yep, because google's not an advertising company, and would never want to, say, install an app that brings you the "great new feature" of automatically pinging their servers with a GPS coordinate and downloading location-relevant ads right to your phone!

Point is - you aren't offered a choice. Point is - you aren't being asked, "is it okay if we do this?" I don't care what the feature is, I'd take severe issue with someone deciding, "here you need this." And let's be honest - updates aren't always flawless... if Google bricks my phone accidentally, will I be able to recover any important data I might have had on there?

Re:Not so terrible (1)

PitaBred (632671) | about 4 years ago | (#32700176)

If you aren't making backups, your data is more vulnerable to a toilet than it is to Google. Google's ads are GPS-sensitive... if you decide to give the browser access to your location information. It's actually pretty well done, and hey, it's open-source. If you don't like it, compile a copy yourself without that stuff. Or get someone else to... there are lots of android hackers out there.

It's to reinstall malware that they removed... (5, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | about 4 years ago | (#32699660)

...when Slashdot raises a stink about them removing it.

"Oops. Sorry. Here's your keylogger back."

Wow. (1)

tpstigers (1075021) | about 4 years ago | (#32699684)

Calling it INSTALL_ASSET makes it seem so real.

Re:Wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32699970)

I saw a function called "cut" and another one called "paste" on my Android. Imagine if Goolge started using those features at random? And you stupid idiots are always knocking my iPhone because it didn't have those functions.

We saw this at Google IO 2010 (2, Insightful)

JustinRLynn (831164) | about 4 years ago | (#32699734)

Does anyone remember the android demo at Google IO where they showed the remote install feature from the android market on a desktop browser in froyo? Seriously, just because there is remote install functionality in the OS doesn't mean that it's there for malicious or secret use -- it's most likely part of a user facing feature.

Re:We saw this at Google IO 2010 (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | about 4 years ago | (#32700118)

Someone already commented that the Market app likely pushes such commands to your phone.

If true, then I have to ask - do you get any confirmation popups after clicking the install button? (I don't have an Android phone or device, so I wouldn't know)

Re:We saw this at Google IO 2010 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32700170)

If the app has any special permissions associated with it, like SMS message access, contact list access, SD card read/write,etc then there is. You get an interstitial screen that shouts all its access privileges at you in red letters, and it requires you to scroll down and hit okay. If the app doesn't use any special permissions, then it'll skip that and go straight to downloading it.

You cannot download an app from the market without seeing what data it has access to, which is why that article from the other day was such total fearmongering. Shocking, this contact manager app I'm downloading can access my contact information!

Re:We saw this at Google IO 2010 (1)

HiThere (15173) | about 4 years ago | (#32700142)

What it means is that it there for use. Good or bad don't enter into it, it's a capability.

Once you realize that the capability is there, you can make an informed decision. (Personally, I've decided that I'm not buying an Android either. I've already made this decision about many other platforms, but I had been thinking about getting an android.)

It's coming up to time to decide on a new phone. It looks like I'll be going with the cheapest one again rather than buying a fancy one. But there are still a couple of contenders that I haven't ruled out.

Isn't Android Open Source? (5, Interesting)

warrior_s (881715) | about 4 years ago | (#32699990)

Excuse my ignorance... but why is this a surprise when android is an open source OS? Why has anyone not noticed this in the source code!! Or is only kernel open source and not the other parts?

Re:Isn't Android Open Source? (3, Informative)

AHuxley (892839) | about 4 years ago | (#32700202)

Apache 2.0 and GPLv2. Open for you to fix and enjoy, closed where needed for them to fix you.

verizon does this to my blackberry (3, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 4 years ago | (#32700114)

one day you look at your phone: hey, there's a bing icon

couple of months later: look at that, a skype icon

it's vaguely unsettling, to be reminded of how raped you are in terms of privacy

Re:verizon does this to my blackberry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32700250)

I'm sure any day now Google will install Bing on all their phones.

And what does "vaguely unsettling" even mean? You find rape to be just "vaguely unsettling?"

I don't know what Google plans to do with this, and I don't particularly care (my phone just makes *gasp* calls). Rape is forced upon a person. If Google does something you don't like get a new phone. Google isn't coming to your house, pinning you down, and forcing to you to use Android. Or in your case, Verizon. So Verizon is raping you and yet you keep it. Is it rape when you say, "ok let's do this." Dump your BB and get something else. If you personally refuse to do so and accept what they do to you then it ain't fucking rape.

I hate this s**t. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32700120)

I'm a smartphone user, although maybe not a smart one. I have an iPhone 3GS. I'm technically adept, although perhaps not in areas that the Slashdot crowd would consider valid or useful. So, although I programmed flight data acquisition and control systems in assembler running on Z80 hardware in neolithic times, I admit I don't have nearly the fine-grain understanding of current phone OSes that it would appear one needs to evaluate and protect oneself from the (IMHO) vendors' overreaching control imperatives. I don't want my phone OS vendor to be able to install an application without my consent. I don't want my phone OS vendor to be able to remove an application without my consent. I want the mix of applications running on my phone to be up to me, not the vendor. Is that so very unreasonable? More and more, my choices with respect to control over my phone narrow, and the only obvious escape lies in open source systems, which require an investment of time to learn that is prohibitive for me. Honestly, as much as I love new technology, it offers less and less convenience and more and more of a drain on my time to administer. It makes me appreciate the efficiency of, well....you know....just a simple phone? And you can get off my lawn now.

Google IS Evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32700148)

USAF Training Exercize above Navada:

Pilot: Wait just a darn minute ... these Coord are for Mountain View, California!

Nav Ofc: Yes Sir. Mountain View, California. Afarmitive. Just a Sec ... looks to be the Google, Inc. Offices located in Mountain View, California. That's a Confirm, Sir.

Pilot: Shoot! Looks like those Ruskies have done a "End Around" on our Left Flank. Dang, I truly hate Shit like this! But, it is not our moment to judge or question or orders, but to do and diliver Hell on the Enemy!

Pilot: Ordinence Ofc, bring online bays 2 and 4, make it snappy we don't have much time!

Ordinence Ofc: Rodger that. Bays 2 and 4 are online and answering.

Pilot: Ordinence Ofc. commence prelim arming ordinence Joker and Queen, over.

Ordinence Ofc: Rodger that. Joker and Queen have Prelim Arming.

Pilor: Comm Ofc, are we recorded? Over.

Comm Ofc: Rodger that. All Comm links are being recorded for future review.

Pilot: Rodger that. As Pilot, I'm inserting my command key, ... truning, ... unlock of firing mechanism acknowledged by the SRB 171, now keying in firing code, ... SRB 171 acknowledges firing code, ... Ordinences Joker and Queen are acknowledged ... lock-on sequence acknowledged, ... lock-on sequence commencined!.

Pilor: Nav Ofc, bring us round on heading 266 TANGO, repeat, 266 TANGO, over.

Nav Ofc: Rodger that. Heading set to 266 TANGO, repeat, heading set to 266 TANGO.

Pilot: Ordinence Ofc set prelim ignition at 5000 ft, repeat, set prelim ignition at 5000 ft.

Ordinence Ofc: Rodger that ... Prelim ignition set at 5000 ft, repeat, Prelim ignition set at 5000 ft.

Pilor: Ordinence Ofc set primary ignition at 2000 ft, repeat, set primary ignition at 2000 ft.

Ordinence Ofc: Rodger that ... Primary ignition set at 2000 ft, repeat, primary ignition set at 2000 ft.

Nav Ofc: TARGET IN SIGHT ... TARGET IN SIGHT ... 30 SECONDS TO DROP ... REPEAT ... 30 SECONDS TO DROP.

Pilot: Ordinence Ofc arm Joker and Queen.

Ordinence Ofc: Joker and Queen armed, repeat, Joker and Queen armed.

Pilot: Mantinence Ofc open bomb-bay doors.

Mantinence Ofc: Rodger that, Bomb-bay doors open, repeat, bomb-bay doors open.

Comm Ofc: Sir, EMC transmission incoming, repeat, EMC transmission incomming. Request ot decode, repeat, request to decoy.

Pilot: Request to decode affarmative.

Comm Ofc: Sir, the EMC is from the Executive Office of the President ... It reads ... Burn'em all.

Pilot: YYYYYEEEEEEHHHHHHAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Payback boys! Those hippies are goin'n to be running in the streets burn'n from head to tail just as this party starts.

Nav Ofc: 10 Second to drop, repeat, 10 seconds to drop, on, MARK.

Pilot: 9 ... 8 .... 7 ... 6 ... 5 .... 4 .... 3 .... 2 .... 1 ..... 0 [CLICK].

Pilot: TURNING TO HEADING 345 SHARP ... THRUSTING TO 105 PERCENT ... NOSE DOWN 2 PERCENT ... HERE SHE CUMS BOYS ... WE'RE SURF'N A THERMONUCLEAR SHOCKWAVE NOW.

Government mandate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32700154)

Is it possible that remote installation/removal could be a government mandate?

This is great news (1, Insightful)

OrangeTide (124937) | about 4 years ago | (#32700264)

Because Android is still less evil and invasive than iOS.

I'm not trying to troll, but really. if you compare the the two platforms one is mostly open and one is glued shut.

gay hippos (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32700304)

but does it have gay hippos?

back in time machine i first posted this gay hippo post!

Thank you for the exploit, sir. (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 4 years ago | (#32700470)

I know of several countries that will be interested in this.
And I'm already halfway through the security around that code.
This is a cakewalk compared to cracking the PS3 hypervisor.

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