Critical UNISOC Chip Vulnerability Affects Millions of Android Smartphones

A critical security flaw has been uncovered in UNISOC smartphone chipset that could be potentially weaponized to disrupt a smartphone’s radio communications through a malformed packet.

“Left unpatched, a hacker or a military unit can leverage such a vulnerability to neutralizing communications in a specific location,” Israeli cybersecurity company Check Point said in a report shared with The Hacker News. “The vulnerability is in the modem firmware, not in the Android OS itself.”

UNISOC, a semiconductor company based in Shanghai, is the world’s fourth-largest mobile processor manufacturer after Mediatek, Qualcomm, and Apple, accounting for 10% of all SoC shipments in Q3 2021, according to Counterpoint Research.

The now-patched issue has been assigned the identifier CVE-2022-20210 and is rated 9.4 out of 10 for severity on the CVSS vulnerability scoring system.

In a nutshell, the vulnerability — discovered following a reverse-engineering of UNISOC’s LTE protocol stack implementation — relates to a case of buffer overflow vulnerability in the component that handles Non-Access Stratum (NAS) messages in the modem firmware, resulting in denial-of-service.

To mitigate the risk, it’s recommended that users update their Android devices to the latest available software as and when it becomes available as part of Google’s Android Security Bulletin for June 2022.

“An attacker could have used a radio station to send a malformed packet that would reset the modem, depriving the user of the possibility of communication,” Check Point’s Slava Makkaveev said.

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