Android RSSI Broadcast Information Disclosure Vulnerability

ID: 100192
CVE: None
Download vulnerable application: None
Android RSSI Broadcast Information Disclosure
 [Blog post here:]
 [NOTE: This bug is part of a series of three related Android bugs with
the same root cause: CVE-2018-9489, CVE-2018-9581 and CVE-2018-15835.
A presentation covering all three bugs was given at BSides DE in the
fall of 2018.]
 System broadcasts by the Android operating system expose WiFi signal
strength information (RSSI). Any application on the device can capture
this information without additional permissions. Rogue applications
can potentially use this information for indoor positioning in order
to locate or track users within a small area near the WiFi router.
Same issue also applies to the underlying Android API, although an
additional permission is required.
 All versions of Android are believed to be affected. The vendor
(Google) has not yet fixed this issue, however on Android 9 / P one of
the two broadcast types is no longer revealing sensitive data (as part
of the fix for CVE-2018-9489). The vendor assigned CVE-2018-9581 to
track this issue. Further research is also recommended to see whether
this is being exploited in the wild.
 Android is an open source operating system developed by Google for
mobile phones and tablets. It is estimated that over two billion
devices exist worldwide running Android. Applications on Android are
usually segregated by the OS from each other and the OS itself.
However, interaction between processes and/or the OS is still possible
via several mechanisms.
 In particular, Android provides the use of aIntentsa as one of the
ways for inter-process communication. A broadcast using an aIntenta
allows an application or the OS to send a message system-wide which
can be listened to by other applications. While functionality exists
to restrict who is allowed to read such messages, application
developers often neglect to implement these restrictions properly or
mask sensitive data. This leads to a common vulnerability within
Android applications where a malicious application running on the same
device can spy on and capture messages being broadcast by other
 Another security mechanism present in the Android is permissions.
These are safeguards designed to protect the privacy of users.
Applications must explicitly request access to certain information or
features via a special auses-permissiona tag in the application
manifest (aAndroidManifest.xmla). Depending on the type of permission
(anormala, adangerousa, etca) the OS may display the permission
information to the user during installation, or may prompt again
during run-time. Some permissions can only be used by system
applications and cannot be used by regular developers.
 The Android OS broadcasts the WiFi strength value (RSSI) system-wide
on a regular basis. No special permission is needed to access this
information. The RSSI values represent the relative strength of the
signal being received by the device (higher = stronger) but are not
directly correlated to the actual physical signal strength (dBm). This
is exposed via two separate intents (
prior to Android 9; and in all
versions of Android).
 While applications can also access this information via the
WifiManager, this normall requires the aACCESS_WIFI_STATEa permission
in the application manifest. For the WiFi RTT feature that is new to
Android 9 and is used for similar geolocation, the
aACCESS_FINE_LOCATIONa is required. But, when listening for system
broadcasts, no such permissions are required allowing applications to
capture this information without the knowledge of the user.
 There are two separate security issues present:
1. RSSI values are available via broadcasts, bypassing the permission
check normally required (aACCESS_WIFI_STATEa).
2. RSSI values, via broadcasts or WifiManager can be used for indoor
position without the special location permission.
 For Android device users, you can replicate these issues as follows:
1. Install the aInternal Broadcasts Monitora application developed by
Vilius Kraujutis from Google Play.
2. Open the application and tap aStarta to monitor broadcasts.
3. Observe system broadcasts, specifically (prior to Android 9) and (all versions).
 To replicate this in code, create a Broadcast receiver and register it
to receive the actions (Android
version v8.1 and below only) and
 Sample code appears below:
 public class MainActivity extends Activity {
public void onCreate(Bundle state) {
    IntentFilter filter = new IntentFilter();
    registerReceiver(receiver, filter);
 BroadcastReceiver receiver = new BroadcastReceiver() {
public void onReceive(Context context, Intent intent) {
 Our test used the following devices:
- Pixel 2, running Android 8.1.0, patch level July 2018
- Nexus 6P, running Android 8.1.0, patch level July 2018
- Moto G4, running Android 7.0, patch level April 2018
- Kindle Fire HD (8 gen), running Fire OS 5.6.10, which is forked from
Android 5.1.1, updated April 2018
- Router used was ASUS RT-N56U running the latest firmware
(We included the Kindle Fire to show that forks of Android inherit
this functionality)
 The following steps were performed:
1. Install Broadcast Monitor app.
2. Put the phone into airplane mode.
3. Walk into the room.
4. Turn off airplane mode (to trigger the RSSI broadcasts).
5. Get the RSSI values from the following broadcasts:
- - newRssi value
- - networkInfo / RSSI
 Repeat steps 3-4 for each room.
 Results of the testing cleared showed that each room had a unique
range of RSSI values when using a particular device.
 The vendor (Google) classified this issue as Moderate and assigned
CVE-2018-9581 to track this issue. No fix is available yet, however on
Android 9 / P one of the two broadcast types
("") is no longer revealing sensitive
data (as part of the fix for CVE-2018-9489). It is unknown if this
issue is being exploited in the wild.
 Android ID # 111698366
CVE ID: CVE-2018-9581
Google Bug # 111662293
GitHub: Internal Broadcasts Monitor -
Presentation given at BSides DE:
1-4-2 (www01)