Google's newest mobile operating system, Android 4.1 aka Jelly Bean, is considered to be secure OS designed to protect against malware attacks.
"Android has stepped its game up mitigation-wise in the new Jelly Bean release," claims security researcher Jon Oberheide on Duo Security. Jelly Bean, the successor to Ice Cream Sandwich, implements the Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR). The ASLR helps protect the system and third party applications making the exploitation of traditional memory corruption vulnerabilities difficult.
Oberheide claims that ASLR randomises where the areas of memory such as stack, heap, libs are mapped in the address space of a process. By combining with mitigation techniques such as Data Execution Prevention (DEP), in addition makes a hacker tough to exploit memory corruption vulnerabilities. Although the ASLR was first implemented on ICS, it did not live up to expectations and is ineffective for mitigating real-world attacks, according to Oberheide.
Oberheide points out the difference between ICS and Jelly Bean's implementation of ASLR. "The execution mapping in the process address space was not randomised in Ice Cream Sandwich, making ROP-style attacks possible using the whole executable as a source of gadgets. In Jelly Bean, most binaries are now compiled/linked with the PIE flag (commits for the linker, ARM and x86), which means the executable mapping will be properly randomised when executed," explains Oberheide on Duo Security.
"As long as there's anything that's not randomised, then it (ASLR) doesn't work, because as long as the attacker knows something is in the same spot, they can use that to break out of everything else," said Charlie Miller, a veteran smartphone hacker and principal research consultant at security firm Accuvant, according to Ars Technica. "Jelly Bean is going to be the first version of Android that has full ASLR and DEP, so it's going to be pretty difficult to write exploits for that," Miller adds.
However, Oberheide points at a more "innovative" exploit mitigation technique such as the in-Kernel ASLR to be implemented in Apple's iOS 6. "One could claim that iOS is being proactive with such techniques, but in reality, they're simply being reactive to the type of exploits that typically target the iOS platform, explains Oberheide on Duo Security. "However, Apple does deserve credit for raising the barrier up to the point of Kernel exploitation by employing effective userspace mitigations such NX, ASLR, and mandatory code signing. Thankfully, Android is getting there, and Jelly Bean is a major step towards that goal," he adds.