Samsung Phone Flaw Lets Attackers Remotely Reset Device - InformationWeek
Mobile // Mobile Devices
10:12 AM
Connect Directly
How Cloud Can Streamline Business Workflow
Jul 11, 2017
In order to optimize your utilization of cloud computing, you need to be able to deliver reliable ...Read More>>

Samsung Phone Flaw Lets Attackers Remotely Reset Device

A researcher at a security conference in Berlin has shown how USSD codes can be used in cyber attacks against Samsung phones. The Galaxy S3, for instance, could have its SIM card wiped merely by browsing a malicious website.

A researcher at a security conference in Berlin has shown how Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) codes could be used in cyber attacks against mobile phones. The Samsung Galaxy S3, for instance, can be reset to factory default merely by browsing a malicious website.

Ravi Borgaonkar, a researcher at the Technical University of Berlin, gave a presentation entitled, Dirty use of USSD Codes in Cellular Network. Below is a video of part of the presentation:

The codes are commands to the phone to perform diagnostic and management features as listed on the xda-developers wiki:

  • testing mode
  • view IMEI number
  • service mode signal status
  • display phone's current firmware
  • battery and other general settings like GSM/CDMA
  • change the "Power" button action in your phone
  • Factory data soft reset
  • Gtalk service monitor
  • Opens a File copy screen where you can back up your media files
  • GPS test
  • service mode main menu
  • Factory Hard Reset to ROM firmware default settings
  • leave Factory

These codes can be invoked, without any user intervention, through a variety of mechanisms. Borgaonkar demonstrated the attack using an SMS message sent to the phone, holding the phone in proximity to an NFC tag, and discussed others such as a QR code.

All these vectors result in pushing the code to the phone, possibly by instructing it to visit a website that contains a "tel:" URL with the code. For example, a Samsung phone, when visiting a Web page containing <frame src="tel:*2767*3855#" />" would reset the phone to factory default. Other codes can wipe the SD and SIM cards.

Borgaonkar says that the attacks only work so far on Samsung devices. Many of the attack vectors can be disabled by the user. It's not clear that these vectors are present with all carriers.

Hat tip to Softpedia.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
IT Strategies to Conquer the Cloud
Chances are your organization is adopting cloud computing in one way or another -- or in multiple ways. Understanding the skills you need and how cloud affects IT operations and networking will help you adapt.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on for the week of November 6, 2016. We'll be talking with the editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll