Researchers at cybersecurity firm Check Point discovered that many Android applications publicly expose sensitive user data through misconfigured third-party services.
The research involved the analysis of 23 Android applications and revealed issues related to real-time databases, cloud storage keys, and push notifications.
The exposed data, which pertains to more than 100 million Android users, includes chat messages, emails, passwords, location information, user identifiers, photos, and more.
The exposed real-time databases, which are meant to store data in the cloud and keep it continuously synchronized with the client, were not protected by any authentication mechanism, a misconfiguration that allowed anyone to access the information, without authorization.
Malicious actors able to access the sensitive data exposed by this commonly encountered misconfiguration could attempt to compromise user accounts on various online services, or even abuse the information for identity theft, Check Point notes.
One of the misconfigured apps was Astro Guru, a popular astrology, horoscope, and palmistry app with more than 10 million downloads, which asks users for personal information such as names, dates of birth, gender, email, location, and payment details.
T’Leva, a taxi app with more than half a million downloads, exposed chat messages, full names, phone numbers, and destinations and pick-up locations.
Some of the analyzed apps were found to contain embedded within them the keys for push notification services, making it easy for hackers to access them and send potentially malicious notifications to all of the apps’ users.
Other applications were also found to insecurely use cloud storage services. These include Screen Recorder (with over 10 million downloads), which records the user’s screen and sends the content to the cloud, and iFax (500,000 downloads), which had cloud storage keys embedded within, allowing an attacker to access all of the user’s fax transmissions.
Check Point’s researchers said they contacted both Google and the developers of the misconfigured applications prior to publishing their findings, adding that some of the developers did address the issues after being notified.