Your Android smartphone only installs malware if you're being dumb (or do it on purpose) — not automatically, and not just because you're in Russia.

This is just ridiculous, even for American "news" television. A report from NBC News was exposed — and rightfully so — by Errata Security (via Techmeme) for being so misleading that, frankly, we almost don't know where to begin.

The short version: NBC News says you'll be hacked the moment you try to connect in Russia. And it tries to show that with two examples: New laptops, fresh out of the box, and an Android smartphone — which we'll focus on here. 

In the piece, NBC's Richard Engel sits down with "top American security expert" Kyle Wilhoit — he works for Trend Micro, actually — and we see an Android smartphone downloading and installing malware. Oops. Hacked. Only, not really.

As Errata properly points out (and Wilhoit explains on Twitter as well, actually), this is all about visiting malicious sites, and not about actually being in Russia.

The story was fraudulent. It was about going to the Olympics in cyberspace (visiting websites), not going to their in person and using their local WiFi. — Errata Security

"Malicious software hijacked our phone — before we even finished our coffee."

What's more is that Android has safeguards built in by default. While it certainly is possible to hit a link and see a malicious app start downloading, it won't actually install without some other interaction. And one of the first checkpoints is the "Unknown sources" option. If your phone isn't set to install apps from outside Google Play — in other words, "unknown sources," it'll tell you. And in just about every retail phone we can think of, that option is turn on by default. Those are but two layers of security. There are others.

As anyone who's ever sideloaded an app (or watched TV) can see, there's been a little editing here. You don't see the permissions the malicious app declared. You don't see any of what actually happened — a point Wilhoit, who his credit, mentions on Twitter. As well as the fact that they weren't actually in Sochi — they were in Moscow. Not that it mattered. NBC was going to get the story it wanted.

And for what it's worth, you could plug your phone straight into a hacked computer and still have at least two other checkpoints to pass — USB debugging and the RSA key security mechanism that both must be allowed for something to be installed that way.

Hacking can and will always happen. There will always be exploits. We all need to be aware of the links we're clicking on, and the apps that we're downloading and installing.

And we need to not listen to NBC News when it tries to scare the hell out of folks just to tell a story.

 

Reader comments

NBC News and the bullshit 'ZOMG Sochi Olympics Android hack' story

93 Comments

Classic drive by Media

Or dare I say typical liberal media cutting out the truth to report want they feel & not what the truth really is.

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Media is media. Liberal, conservative. Same shit. All pushing their corporate agendas to pit the masses against each other. All owned by the same power mad masters of the universe.

Yeah, because Fox is so honest. They still have yet to report that the story on the Benghazi whistleblower from 60 minutes that CBS ran a retraction on (because the guy was a right wing hack who had no involvement in Benghazi what so ever) was a farce yet they ran the story when they thought it was true 17 times. All of the media is corrupt, right, left, it doesn't matter. They are all controlled by large industry money.

NBC News is absolute bottom of the barrel, regardless of political affiliation. Their "stories" are sensationalized to the point of absurdity, if not outright altered to "fit the narrative" that they are looking for. People really need to stop watching that crap.

It's sad that the only way to really get somewhat honest news about the US is to watch foreign news sources. Can't believe any of the nonsense being spouted by any US news agency.

They like to put all kinds of stupid shit in Americans heads...especially the ones who aren't so tech literate. A lot of my customers will stand like a zombie when you try to explain certain terms to them, and if you ask if they have wifi at home, their eyes glaze over. Most folks are already having a hard time learning how to use their phones let alone being told that there is a virus on it.

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The sad thing is, most of the masses are so ignorant of the facts, they will actually believe the story. Especially if (in their mind) it helps them re-inforce their purchase and the fact that they believe (because they were told by the stooge at Bestbuy) iPhones are more secure.

we actually don't like Iphones, because we don't make any notional margin on selling an iphone, we get zero for activating an iphone. Normally we make anywhere around 90-130 for an upgrade and upto 200 for a new line on ANY other phone except iphones, me make 0.... That's why 9/10 employees would highly recommend an Android over an iphone at Best Buy Mobile- I'm a Lead/Assistant Manager at a mall location btw.

They should of ran a scrolling bar at the bottom of the report saying "this news report brought to you by apple, MS, and scroogle."

The guy must of sideloaded apps from Freemalwareapps DOTru

Another example is that report the FBI released about how hackers can somehow magically hack your webcam and remotly spy on you. My mom (who isn't really a techie) read this report, and decided to put a Post-It note over her MacBook's webcam. I used everything I could think of to get her to stop believing that al-Quada had hacked her computer, (i.e. the person has to manually download the spyware IN PERSON, you're running OS X Lion, Mac hackers are in the minority etc.) even though I would know, being as tech savvy as I am (don't mean to brag).

Americans. :P

First rule of computing: PEBKAC

Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair

A more modern version might be PEBTAS, Problem Exists Between Touchscreen And Shoes.

Misinformation about tech in general. This shit infuriates me because it keeps people who aren't all that tech-savvy from dipping their toes in the water and getting more familiar with stuff that everyone really needs to know at this point.

Well if Russian hackers are that good on a "high end device", S4 from the looks of it, can they please share their secret of getting passed KNOX, we the rest of the world would like some of the info. Brian Williams is a apple fanboy. Too bad research went out of reporting a long time ago.

+1

& people wonder why Americans are so misinformed & reelected Obama

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Obama has nothing to do with this...and the hatred of Obama is pathetic no president has endured such racism and obstructioning as he's been made to endure.

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Yes, there are extremely loud racists that don't like Obama. There are also people who are not racist at all that think Obama has failed miserably. Do not equate viewing Obama's presidency as a failure as being racist.

And yeah, Obama has nothing to do with this. This is NBC all the way. NBC News has been in the gutter since well before Obama took office.

I'll give you the misinformed part but the Obama thing has to stop. It's not his fault congress can't agree on crap.

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Funny thing is, if you actually watch the story, the two brand new computers that were "hacked" were Macs, so he's not quite an Apple fanboy.

I have a feeling they set up new user accounts on the computers without a password (which, unfortunately, a lot of people do)... And the Android phone definitely had some settings changed, as Phil described.

I watched it to the part where they started pulling out the brand new mac book said "fanboys" and switched off. I watched it again and you are right. :p

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There are a lot more problems with Sochi, and this isn't one of them.

I would say they should flush this story down the toilet and pretend it never existed, but alas, that's an issue in Sochi as well.

You'd have to throw this story in the waste basket next to the toilet, for fear of clogging the pipes, the way I hear it ;)

So when the mainstream media criticizes bloggers as unedited, unfiltered, and not on the same level of journalistic integrity that they occupy, is that a compliment, Phil?

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NBC "news" sucks. The other networks aren't much better, if in fact they are better at all.

Posted from my Nexus 7 2013 via Android Central App

I'm so scared I think I'll start a thread asking which Antivirus software I need an my android device. Thanks for tip going searching for top notch Antivirus app.

Posted via Android Central App via bad azz VZW LG G2 ROOTED!

I agree with some on here, I have so many customer's who are paranoid about viruses on their devices. The ones who are doing the funny stuff on their devices should worry but to the others I tell them its not that serious and as long as they install from the playstore only they should be okay. I have a very hard time respecting people who are so dumb as to beleive everything they hear on t.v. In this day and age people should know better.

There has been so much bashing of the Olympics on mainstream media that an bs article like this is expected. OMG, in Russia they hack your phone before the first Putin joke.... OMG! We should be aware of the NSA and not worry about FSB so much

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Thank you Phil for forwarding this video, now I know better than to buy two brand new Macbook Airs and leaving them at a Russian hotel room all day long. Also to only trust Microsoft products, seems like they're the only ones not hacked in the video.

lol just realised this now but did they get served two dirty and empty cups of coffee to make a point? thank god i don't watch much TV just by watching this my IQ slipped 10 points.

NBC and other TV sources seem to be pretty anti internet..

Or is it just me?

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Posted via my thumbs and Google Keyboard. N7 2013

I agree, they should have been more specific, but there are people who don't read and will click yes and Okay to everything that comes up on their screen.

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I think what I liked best was the comment from Brian that it's in the law the Russians can snoop on your electronic messages. Unlike the NSA who do it anyhow? Bad time to be condescending and that is what this report was.

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The boogeyman is probably under your bed and the probability of him getting you increases whenever you get up.. Eventually he will get you. NBC News, news at 11:00.

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Typical NBC. They put a spin on EVERY story they tell. Its a wonder that recent polls have shown that Americans view NBC news as the least trustworthy news network. Not to mention MSNBC. They are just a bunch of racist liberal hacks. That Chris Mathews can't utter a complete sentence without referring to race in some way.

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Bottom line is that newscasts are about ratings. They know that stories like this get people talking and more importantly gets them coming to NBC(or insert news station here) and checking out the story for them self. Just the way it works.

Completely off topic, but you'd think with all the money Brian Williams makes, he would get his nose fixed. I wonder if he gets tired of looking sideways at the camera.

Smh. Could have sworn you have to DOWNLOAD MANUALLY any programs on your phone. We know Russia isn't the most "secure" place, but let's not take it back to Cold War status..

Apple paid someone for them to do this story because I like how this shows up within a week of the Samsung story but the fact that they use an S4 and don't even try to hide what manufacturer it is

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And this is why news outlets such as NBC News shouldn't be covering tech stories when they don't understand the technology themselves.

Ha! Yeah I saw this yesterday and all I could think of is wait, what?? They left out some pretty important steps there lol.

Fear will always be how the news tries to influence the public. The same way that they try to make it like Russia hates gay people when in reality, their laws are much more kind to gay people than ours are in the states in many ways.

www.noagendashow.com for great commentary and analysis on the bullshit our media feeds us.

Thanks for posting this. I posted in the forums asking about this because it just didn't make sense to me. I'm no security expert but I knew it shouldn't be that easy or it would be happening all the time everywhere, not just in Russia.