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Android Hacker's Handbook by Georg Wicherski, Stephen A. Ridley, Pau Oliva Fora, Collin Mulliner, Zach Lanier, Joshua J. Drake

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Chapter 13Hardware Attacks

The portability and versatility of Android across a diverse range of mobile hardware platforms has made it extremely successful in the mobile space, almost to the point of ubiquity. Its portability and flexibility is also one factor that's pushing Android to become the operating system of choice for other kinds of embedded systems. Android is open, highly customizable, and is relatively easy for rapidly developing visually appealing user interfaces. This is especially true when compared to previous industry standard options, such as bare-bones embedded Linux and real-time or proprietary operating systems. As the new de facto standard for a variety of new kinds of embedded devices, Android is on e-readers, set-top entertainment systems, airline in-flight entertainment systems, “smart” televisions, climate control systems, and point-of-sale systems. (And that's just to name a few that we've personally poked at.) With Android powering these kinds of devices, we'd be remiss to not at least address some simple techniques for attacking and reverse engineering these kinds of devices' hardware.

As an attack vector, physical access to hardware is generally viewed as “game over” and low threat from traditional risk and threat modeling perspective. However, in many cases “physical” techniques can be employed to perform vulnerability research that has greater impact. For example, consider a connection to an unprotected debug port on a router or switch. With proper ...

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