Vulnerability spotted in Fortnite Android installer

Google identified the flaw, which has since been patched

After Fortnite for Android arrived independently of the Google Play Store, Google has revealed that a flaw in the game's installer left players' devices vulnerable to being hacked.

The news brings a measure of validation to the security experts who criticised game developer Epic's decision to bypass Google's distribution platform, warning that encouraging users to side-load Fortnite would expose them to unnecessary security risks.

Disclosed on Google's Issue Tracker site for Android developers, the bug in Epic's initial Fortnite installer for Android allowed malicious apps on phones to hijack the Fortnite installer in order to download and install malware. What's more, it let them do it in the background, meaning that an app didn't need to flag to users that it was downloading content to the device.

Google did contact Epic over the issue, allowing the developer to update the Fortnite installer on Android before Google went public with the vulnerability, although Epic CEO Tim Sweeney still called Google irresponsible for not waiting until more people had applied the update.

Fortnite on Android hack: What is the vulnerability?

When you download Fortnite for Android from Epic's website, you're actually just downloading an installer, rather than the full game. The Fortnite installer then does the heavy lifting, downloading the game in its entirety directly from Epic's servers.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

The problem with this, as Google's security team discovered, is that Epic's Fortnite installer was easy to exploit. In theory, hackers could hijack the request from the Fortnite installer to Epic's servers and instead download something else when you tap the "download" button in the app.

This may not sound like much of an issue, but all it takes is one unsavoury app lying in wait on your phone to take advantage of this exploit. Given the popularity of Fortnite, and its highly anticipated release on Android, it's likely to be a target of hackers. 

What makes matters worse is that once you've given the Fortnite installer a chance to download an app in the background, it never needs to ask for permission to do so again. Because the Fortnite installer is a 'dumb' app, it doesn't know which servers it's downloading from, it just knows it's being used to download something, so it can't flag a dodgy install.

Google posted a proof-of-concept video showcasing just how easy it is for a user to think they're downloading Fortnite when, in actuality, they're downloading a malicious app to their phone. The video can be downloaded in .mp4 format here.

It should, of course, be noted that Google has a vested interest in finding vulnerabilities in Fortnite and its distribution. By releasing Fortnite for Android outside of the Play Store, Epic Games keeps the game's revenues for itself, without paying Google the 30% cut it demands for hosting apps in its own market. Fortnite was making $1.2 million per day on average when it first arrived on iOS.

Advertisement - Article continues below

If Epic is successful in distributing Fortnite outside the Play Store, it could lead other developers to jump ship too, so Google has an incentive to prove security experts' fears right.

Fortnite on Android hack: How to make sure your phone is safe

Those now concerned about downloading Fortnite on Android needn't be. Epic has stated that it fixed the exploit fewer than 48 hours after being alerted to the flaw. 

Those who currently use the original installer simply need to update to the latest version - 2.1.0 or newer. You can check to see if you're running this by launching the installer and heading to Settings. If you've somehow ended up installing an earlier version of the Fortnite installer, you won't be able to download Fortnite until you update to version 2.1.0.

If you're still worried about the vulnerability, you can uninstall Fortnite and its installer and reinstall them both. You should also run a scan with Google Play Protect to identify if any malware has been installed on your phone. You can do this by heading to the "My apps & games" section of the Google Play Store and tapping the "Play Protect" icon at the very top of your list of apps.

Featured Resources

Digitally perfecting the supply chain

How new technologies are being leveraged to transform the manufacturing supply chain

Download now

Three keys to maximise application migration and modernisation success

Harness the benefits that modernised applications can offer

Download now

Your enterprise cloud solutions guide

Infrastructure designed to meet your company's IT needs for next-generation cloud applications

Download now

The 3 approaches of Breach and Attack Simulation technologies

A guide to the nuances of BAS, helping you stay one step ahead of cyber criminals

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/malware/33080/hackers-abuse-linkedin-dms-to-plant-malware
malware

Hackers abuse LinkedIn DMs to plant malware

25 Feb 2019
Visit/cloud/cloud-computing/354479/google-adds-partners-to-real-time-translation-tools
cloud computing

Google adds partners to real-time translation tools

8 Jan 2020
Visit/hardware/354336/the-it-pro-products-of-the-year-2019-all-the-years-best-hardware
Hardware

The IT Pro Products of the Year 2019: All the year’s best hardware

24 Dec 2019
Visit/security/malware/28083/the-five-best-free-malware-removal-tools
Security

Best free malware removal tools 2019

23 Dec 2019

Most Popular

Visit/operating-systems/25802/17-windows-10-problems-and-how-to-fix-them
operating systems

17 Windows 10 problems - and how to fix them

13 Jan 2020
Visit/microsoft-windows/32066/what-to-do-if-youre-still-running-windows-7
Microsoft Windows

What to do if you're still running Windows 7

14 Jan 2020
Visit/policy-legislation/general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/354577/data-protection-fines-hit-ps100m
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Data protection fines hit £100m during first 18 months of GDPR

20 Jan 2020
Visit/web-browser/30394/what-is-http-error-503-and-how-do-you-fix-it
web browser

What is HTTP error 503 and how do you fix it?

7 Jan 2020