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Does Android Nutella Hit the Security Sweet Spot?

This blog intends to inform the general public about the next version of Android (7.0), expected to be labelled “Android Nutella” focussing on the significance of improved or new security features in the sweet next in line from Google.

The next dessert to taste after Marshmallow, provisionally “Nutella” (Android 7.0), loaded on Nexus devices, is expected to hit the market in Q3, 2016.

Few of the confirmed major new features in Android N as per the Android N Developer Preview version are:

  • Multi-window mode
  • Efficient Doze mode
  • Direct-reply notifications/Quick settings
  • Shifting Android Java language libraries to OpenJDK
  • Faster App optimization by ART
  • Android Beta Program
  • Data Saver mode
  • Video and Picture at the sametime
  • Changing display screen size
  • Dark mode
  • New folder icons
  • Clear All feature in recent apps list
  • Lock screen enhancements

It is to be noted from the above feature list of Android N that there are no major security enhancements in Android N revealed in the Developer Preview versions.

Lock screen enhancements:

  • In Android N, it is possible to enable a setting that allows the user to display user information like name, address, blood group, etc., on the lock screen.
  • The latest developer preview 2 of Android N  allows the user to reply to notifications from the lock screen itself.

Saying that, the enhancements at the lock screen level raises the question of privacy, i.e. data security. Suppose the device is misplaced or lost, it is possible for a third party to know the user’s identity. Credit card and banking divisions always verify a user’s identity for any request of user-profile change or account request, exactly the kind of information which can be obtained from a stolen Android N phone might enable a third party to easily steal or misuse the victim’s account.

It goes without saying that there could be a password protection mechanism to access user’s personal data. However, in that case it might not serve the purpose of helping in an emergency.

As the Android threat landscape seems to have gone a bit silent of late, at least in the IT security  world, after the discovery of the Stagefright exploit, and given Google’s super confidence in the absence of malware for Android, perhaps, the Android N development team might have skipped Security in the major feature enhancement list.

Even though the Android malware landscape has not thrown up too much to write home about in the last few months, it is understood that as there is always a malware threat for any popular OS, and hopefully Google is continuing to take security seriously. Note, apparently not all the features have been revealed in the preview versions of Nutella so let us wait for the release candidate of Android N to have a clear picture of any major security feature changes. The proof will be in the eating…

Image courtesy:
nutella.com

V.Dhanalakshmi
Senior Threat Researcher, K7TCL

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