Nexus phones open to SMS-based attacks

Some Google Nexus phones are likely to reboot or fail to connect to a mobile Internet service when sent a barrage of Flash SMS messages.

The vulnerability can be exploited by attackers, warned a systems administrator for a Dutch IT services firm that discovered the weakness.

Bogdan Alecu of It company Levi9, said the issue affects all Android 4.x firmware versions of Google Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4 and Nexus 5.

Flash SMS or Class 0 SMS is a type of message that is directly displayed on a device’s screen and is not automatically stored on the device. Users can save or dismiss the message.

On Google Nexus phones, Flash SMS messages are displayed on an active window. The message comes with a semi-transparent overlay. If the message is not saved or dismissed, when a second message arrives, it gets placed on top of the first. As more Flash SMS messages arrive, the overlays increasingly dim the screen.

Alecu said that it takes about 30 piled up messages for Nexus phones to start acting up.

Some affected phones will either reboot. If PIN is required to unlock the device’s SIM card, the phone will not connect to the network after the reboot.

In some instances, the phone temporarily loses connection to the mobile network. However, when connection is restored, the phone will be able to send and receive calls but will not be able to access the Internet.

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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