In response to reports that GO SMS Pro, an Android instant messaging application with over 100 million installs, is publicly exposing private multimedia files shared between its users, experts from cybersecurity firms Inkscreen and KnowBe4 offer perspective.
This is an example of the dangers of trusting third-party apps and a lesson in how not to respond to reported security issues. This vendor uses no authentication to ensure that only the intended recipients can receive the multimedia files. Instead, by using only a short, generated hex number to retrieve the file, they leave a huge number of people vulnerable to having private photos and data pilfered without their knowledge. More concerning is the thought that users may not even be aware of how to, or even have the ability to, delete these files once stored on the application developers’ servers.
Having notified the vendor over the course of three months, the security researchers followed a reasonable notification attempt before publicly disclosing the vulnerability. This is a tough call for researchers, especially when sensitive information is at risk, however, leaving the vulnerability in place and not informing potential users is also not acceptable.
As more and more applications are available for mobile devices, this threat will continue to grow. Consumers should be aware that just because a lot of others are using the service, doesn’t mean that the service is secure or safe to use.
Here is another example where a mobile app user believes their photos and videos are protected and only accessible by intended recipients, while in reality they are left exposed. This false sense of security can be exploited both on personal accounts and in the enterprise. Companies that do not provide secure managed solutions for employees to capture and share multimedia content will find themselves similarly exposed to liability and loss.