Flaws in Qualcomm chips could allow snooping, Check Point finds

Ruben Fields
August 12, 2020

If exploited it can allow hackers to turn any smartphone into a spying tool without the user's interaction.

The vulnerable units, Digital Signal Processor units or DSP chips made by Qualcomm Technologies, specifically Qualcomm Snapdragon DSP chips, impact popular cellphones and devices from Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, and Google are vulnerable, according to researchers. Hackers could also push malware into the phone without the user's knowledge, which could lead to data theft.

Qualcomm chips are used in over 40% of the smartphone market and are found in phones from different price categories.

Now, Check Point researchers have reported the vulnerabilities and security concerns surrounding Snapdragon DSP chips to the company. There's no way to tell which apps might compromise your handset with the Achilles vulnerability and also no way to tell which videos might be booby-trapped.

More than one billion Android phones may be compromised as researchers found 400 vulnerabilities in Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips, which are standard in smartphones and other gadgets. According to Yaniv Balmas, the Head of Cyber Research at Check Point, millions of smartphone users will have nearly no way to protect themselves for a very long time if such vulnerabilities are found and utilized by malicious actors.

Check Point disclosed the following identifiers that were shared with Qualcomm, grouping them all under the name "Achilles".

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Furthermore, attackers may also be able to render the mobile phone constantly unresponsive making all the information stored on this phone permanently unavailable. Hundreds of millions of phones are exposed to this security risk. "We have no evidence it is now being exploited", the company stated. "You can be spied on". This targeted denial-of-service attack can enable hackers to block the user from accessing photos, videos, contact details, and more.

Check Point has not published full technical details of these Achilles vulnerabilities as it wants mobile vendors to work on possible solutions to mitigate the possible risks these vulnerabilities cause. Lastly, these vulnerabilities allow malware and other malicious code to completely hide their activities and become un-removable.

In response to the report, Qualcomm vowed to address the vulnerabilities.

As it seems, though, not much regards were given to the security of the DSP chips, and solving the problem now requires handling the complexities of an entangled and intricate supply chain.

According to a report by CheckPoint, the vulnerability has been detected in Snapdragon's digital signal processor (DSP) chips.

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