Android developers using Google’s Firebase application development platform are being warned to check their configurations after security researchers discovered thousands of apps are leaking sensitive data.

News website Comparitech says a team analyzed 155,066 apps on the Google Play store, of which 11,730 had publicly exposed databases. Of those 4, 282 apps were leaking sensitive information including email addresses, user names, passwords, full names credit card data and photos of government-issued IDs.

In addition, of the 11,730 with publicly-exposed databases, 9,014 of them included write permissions, which would allow an attacker to add, modify, or remove data on the server, in addition to viewing and downloading it.

The story says Firebase is used by an estimated 30 per cent of all apps on the Google Play Store. If the tested apps are representative, an estimated 0.83 per cent of all Android apps on Google Play leak sensitive data through Firebase, says Comparitech. That would work out to roughly 24,000 apps.

The article says Google was notified on April 22nd.  In response, Google said it’s “reaching out to affected developers to help them address these issues.”

Of the analyzed vulnerable apps, 24 per cent were games, 14,7 per cent were categorized as educational, six per cent related to entertainment, just under 5.3 per cent were business-related and 4.3 per cent were described as travel or local related.

A common Firebase misconfiguration allows attackers to easily find and steal data from storage, according to the article. By simply appending “.json” to the end of a Firebase URL, the attacker can view and download the contents of vulnerable databases. Google scrubs these vulnerable database URLs from its search results. However,  the article adds, they are still indexed by other search engines like Bing.

App developers can use Firebase for a wide range of functions including authentication, hosting, cloud storage and as a real-time database. Google offers developers guidance on securing data.



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