A flaw in an Android open source web browsing app found on nearly half the active Android user base could potentially be used by malicious websites to steal user information. Reported by white-hat hacker Rafay Baloch earlier this month, this bug affects the Android Open Source Platform browser – also known as “Android Browser” – which was the default browser on all Android phones shipped prior to Android OS 4.2, when Google switched the default browser to Chrome. Even then, parts of Android Browser were still being used by other OS applications up until version 4.4, when Google swapped those parts out for Chromium ones. A survey of web browsers used shows that nearly half of all Android users may be using Android Browser actively, which could equate to nearly 40 million potential victims.
What this means for you:
Note that “Android Browser” (with capital B) is the actual name of this program, and should not be confused with the Chrome app, which is also an “Android browser” – as in it’s an app that lets you browse the internet on your Android device. If you still have the Android Browser app installed on your 4.X Android phone, you should replace it with Chrome. However, this may only solve part of the problem, as many other apps that have some form of internet browsing built into it may be using the flawed engine embedded inside the app itself, and there is no clear way to know for sure without asking the developer.
Now that Google has officially acknowledged the bug, a fix is supposedly in the works, but hasn’t said when it will release the update, which will have to be delivered as part of an OS update (ie. going from 4.3 to 4.4) and not throught Play Store. Also, it’s not clear whether that update will trickle down to the many apps that still use the engine to power their own embedded browsers. For now, stick to using Chrome, and be wary of apps that have built-in web browsing capabilities.