Researcher uses Dirty Pipe exploit to fully root a Pixel 6 Pro and Samsung S22

Stylized illustration of a robot holding a smart tablet.

A researcher has successfully used the critical Dirty Pipe vulnerability in Linux to fully root two models of Android phones—a Pixel 6 Pro and Samsung S22—in a hack that demonstrates the power of exploiting the newly discovered OS flaw.

The researcher chose those two handset models for a good reason: They are two of the few—if not the only—devices known to run Android version 5.10.43, the only release of Google’s mobile OS that’s vulnerable to Dirty Pipe. Because the LPE, or local privilege escalation, vulnerability wasn’t introduced until the recently released version 5.8 of the Linux kernel, the universe of exploitable devices—whether mobile, Internet of Things, or servers and desktops—is relatively small.

Behold, a reverse shell with root privileges

But for devices that do package affected Linux kernel versions, Dirty Pipe offers hackers—both benign and malicious—a platform for bypassing normal security controls and gaining full root control. From there, a malicious app could surreptitiously steal authentication credentials, photos, files, messages, and other sensitive data. As I reported last week, Dirty Pipe is among the most serious Linux threats to be disclosed since 2016, the year another high-severity and easy-to-exploit Linux flaw named Dirty Cow came to light.

Android uses security mechanisms such as SELinux and sandboxing, which often make exploits hard, if not impossible. Despite the challenge, the successful Android root shows that Dirty Pipe is a viable attack vector against vulnerable devices.

“It’s exciting because most Linux kernel vulnerabilities are not going to be useful to exploit Android,” Valentina Palmiotti, lead security researcher at security firm Grapl, said in an interview. The exploit “is notable because there have only been a few public Android LPEs in recent years (compare that to iOS where there have been so many). Though because it only works 5.8 kernels and up, it’s limited to the two devices we saw in the demo.”

In a video demonstration published on Twitter, a security researcher who asked to be identified…