RAMpage vulnerability attacks android devices
Researchers find RAMpage vulnerability targeting Android devicesCreative Commons

If you own an Android mobile device released in or after 2012, chances are high you might have just been exposed to a vulnerability all this time.

A new security research conducted by an international team of academics has shed light on the vulnerability called RAMpage, which was tracked as CVE-2018-9442, a variant of the Rowhammer malware. Like Rowhammer, RAMpage targets modern memory cards by repeated read and write requests to a similar row of memory cells that would create an electrical field in which altered data will be carried over to nearby memory.

Android devices and root Android phones have been at risk for quite some time now, compromising amounts of information such as passwords stored in a password manager or browser, emails, photos, instant messages, and other sensitive data.

"While apps are typically not permitted to read data from other apps, a malicious program can craft a RAMpage exploit to get administrative control and get hold of secrets stored in the device," the researchers wrote.

RAMpage aims at Android's memory subsystem called ION. For starters, ION is a part of the Android OS that manages memory allocations between apps and for the operating system itself. It was first released in October 2011 as part of the Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) rollout. 

Once RAMpage breaks the boundaries between Android apps and the OS of a phone, this hands the hacker a full control over the device and its data. Devices with DRAM units LPDDR2, LPDDR3, or LPDDR4 are potentially affected by the attack.

The researchers are urging Android users to download the GuardION tool to protect them against RAMpage-like attacks in the future. It is available on GitHub. By running a test through the Drammer app, this would largely help the researchers to determine the next steps after this attack.

According to the researchers, there is no guarantee for Apple devices, home computers, and even cloud servers to be free from such an attack. At this stage, the research into the RAMpage vulnerability is still in its early stage and there is still a lot to discover along the way.