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Security

More than 1,200 popular Android apps still vulnerable to FREAK

Researchers from FireEye claim the security risks posed by the FREAK bug are far from over.

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Here is an example of decrypted log-in credentials that FREAK can steal. FireEye

A total of 1,228 Android apps that have been downloaded 6.3 billion times from the Google Play store are still vulnerable to the FREAK bug, according to network security company FireEye.

Research published Tuesday by the company shows just how vulnerable both Android and iOS apps still are to a FREAK attack.

FREAK is a cryptographic weakness that permits attackers to force data traveling between a vulnerable website or operating system to servers to use weak encryption protocols. If combined with a so-called man-in-the-middle attack, the data could theoretically be intercepted and cracked as the user is unwittingly using a lower level of encryption than believed.

According to FireEye, as of March 4, both of the latest Android and iOS platforms are vulnerable to the security issue. As FREAK is both a platform vulnerability and an app vulnerability, even after Google and Apple issued patches, apps may still be vulnerable when connecting to servers that accept RSA_EXPORT cipher suites.

FireEye says this is why some iOS apps are vulnerable even after Apple patched the FREAK vulnerability in iOS earlier this month.

Researchers Yulong Zhang, Hui Xue, Tao Wei and Zhaofeng Chen crawled through the Google Play app store to determine how severe the FREAK vulnerability still could be. The team scanned a total of 10,985 popular apps with over one million downloads each -- and discovered that 11.2 percent of them, 1,228 apps in total, are still vulnerable to the bug because they "use a vulnerable OpenSSL library to connect to vulnerable HTTPS servers."

In total, 664 of these apps use Android's bundled OpenSSL library and 554 rely on custom libraries.

When it comes to iOS apps, the security researchers claim that 771 out of 14,079 -- 5.5 percent -- of popular iOS apps connect to vulnerable services and, therefore, are vulnerable to FREAK attacks on iOS versions below 8.2, which has been patched. In addition, seven of these 771 apps have their own vulnerable versions of OpenSSL and they remain vulnerable on iOS 8.2.

"Without necessarily breaking the encryption in real time, the attacker can record weakly encrypted network traffic, decrypt it and access the sensitive information inside," FireEye said.

For example, a FREAK attack on a shopping app could be used to steal login credentials and credit card information. In addition, "medical apps, productivity apps and finance apps" may also be vulnerable.

Vulnerable app rates sorted by security and privacy-sensitive categories are shown below.

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Here are the total number of vulnerable Android and iOS apps. FireEye
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Here are the vulnerable Android apps and their download totals. FireEye

This story originally posted as "Android apps downloaded over 6.3 billion times still vulnerable to FREAK" on ZDNet.