An attack on Android
phones that can change what is stored in the Random Access Memory (RAM) inside a handset
, can ultimately lead a hacker to gain control of the device. This attack, called RAMpage for obvious reasons, can theoretically grab passwords stored in a password manager, emails, photos, and documents stored on the unit. It is the subject of a research paper released today from three universities in India, Amsterdam and UC Santa Barbara.
RAMpage is an attack based on the Rowhammer bug that takes advantage of the tightly packed circuitry inside a RAM chip. By electrically attacking one part of a RAM chip, memory cells leak and interfere with other memory cells. Keep in mind that this is not necessarily a flaw, but is a “side effect” of RAM. While some leakage between rows of memory cells is normal, and the RAM chip able to recover, a hacker who attacks the same row repeatedly can flip the bits inside the cells, which use a binary system. The flip, from “0” to “1” or from “1” to “0” will alter the data stored in RAM.
RAMpage can be unleashed on Android devices using LPDDR2, LPDDR3 and LPDDR4 RAM. That means that any Android phone
produced in 2012 or later is vulnerable. This is obviously a complicated attack, and while Android devices are currently the target at the moment, eventually iOS devices could be in the crosshairs.