Security Enhancements in Android 4.3

Every Android release includes dozens of security enhancements to protect users. The following are some of the security enhancements available in Android 4.3:

  • Android sandbox reinforced with SELinux. This release strengthens the Android sandbox using the SELinux mandatory access control system (MAC) in the Linux kernel. SELinux reinforcement is invisible to users and developers, and adds robustness to the existing Android security model while maintaining compatibility with existing applications. To ensure continued compatibility this release allows the use of SELinux in a permissive mode. This mode logs any policy violations, but will not break applications or affect system behavior.
  • No setuid/setgid programs. Added support for filesystem capabilities to Android system files and removed all setuid/setguid programs.  This reduces root attack surface and the likelihood of potential security vulnerabilities.
  • ADB Authentication. Since Android 4.2.2, connections to ADB are authenticated with an RSA keypair. This prevents unauthorized use of ADB where the attacker has physical access to a device.
  • Restrict Setuid from Android Apps. The /system partition is now mounted nosuid for zygote-spawned processes, preventing Android applications from executing setuid programs. This reduces root attack surface and the likelihood of potential security vulnerabilities.
  • Capability bounding. Android zygote and ADB now use prctl(PR_CAPBSET_DROP) to drop unnecessary capabilities prior to executing applications. This prevents Android applications and applications launched from the shell from acquiring privileged capabilities.
  • AndroidKeyStore Provider. Android now has a keystore provider that allows applications to create exclusive use keys. This provides applications with an API to create or store private keys that cannot be used by other applications.
  • KeyChain isBoundKeyAlgorithm. Keychain API now provides a method (isBoundKeyType) that allows applications to confirm that system-wide keys are bound to a hardware root of trust for the device. This provides a place to create or store private keys that cannot be exported off the device, even in the event of a root compromise.
  • NO_NEW_PRIVS. Android zygote now uses prctl(PR_SET_NO_NEW_PRIVS) to block addition of new privileges prior to execution application code. This prevents Android applications from performing operations which can elevate privileges via execve. (This requires Linux kernel version 3.5 or greater).
  • FORTIFY_SOURCE enhancements. Enabled FORTIFY_SOURCE on Android x86 and MIPS and fortified strchr(), strrchr(), strlen(), and umask() calls. This can detect potential memory corruption vulnerabilities or unterminated string constants.
  • Relocation protections. Enabled read only relocations (relro) for statically linked executables and removed all text relocations in Android code. This provides defense in depth against potential memory corruption vulnerabilities.
  • Improved EntropyMixer. EntropyMixer now writes entropy at shutdown / reboot, in addition to periodic mixing. This allows retention of all entropy generated while devices are powered on, and is especially useful for devices that are rebooted immediately after provisioning.
  • Security Fixes. Android 4.3 also includes fixes for Android-specific vulnerabilities. Information about these vulnerabilities has been provided to Open Handset Alliance members and fixes are available in Android Open Source Project. To improve security, some devices with earlier versions of Android may also include these fixes.