Darlene Storm

Zombies and Angry Birds attack: mobile phone malware

November 15, 2010 12:03 PM EST

Zombies are running rampant and wreaking havoc in China. These zombies are cell phone viruses that constantly send out text messages. According to InformationWeek, hackers have hijacked over 1 million smartphones with zombie viruses and are costing Chinese citizens over $300,000 daily. The trojan hides in a fake anti-virus app that sends the phone's SIM card information to cybercrooks. Then the hackers take over the phone to spam text messages to the listed contacts.

The text messages are packed with links that infect other phones with viruses if a user clicks on the link. Other texts get sent to premium-rate phone numbers. You will be billed $90,000 for this call was a similar attack scenario. The Chinese National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team Center has reported that new variations of zombie viruses are appearing at a breakneck pace, making it very difficult to eradicate the malicious apps.

If you are tempted by a new app, be careful as malicious software can sometimes be a "bonus" in the app download. Cybercrooks are cashing in on the app craze, targeting mobile phones for attack by dangling temptation in front of users. Sex and baited "sexy malware" played a part in one of the first mobile botnets aimed at the Symbian. Other smart phone infections have been less about stealing money and more about stalking and stealing information by cell phone spying.

Popular games and other tempting apps are often used to spread trojans. The Angry Birds mobile game is a all the rage right now, so a free expansion pack for the game would likely also be downloaded millions of times. Scio Security researcher Jon Oberheide released Angry Birds Bonus Levels for Android phones in the Google online app store last week. After the app was downloaded, three more apps were "secretly" installed that could have allowed malicious activity if active malware had truly been a part of the download. Instead, this was to show flaws in the mobile framework and how apps can be downloaded without the user's knowledge. According to The Last Watchdog, Oberheide's fake app was a white hat proof-of-concept exploit that lasted only about six hours before Google removed it. Google then sent out a security fix for the flaw.

Besides zombies and angry birds, McAfee is warning consumers to beware cybercriminals' "smishing" scams during the upcoming holiday season. "Smishing" translates to sending phishing SMS texts meant to steal money and identities. The text will appear as if it came from your bank or a site where you shopped online. The text message will tell you there is a problem with your account. You will then be asked to call a number and verify your account information.

There are no signs of cell phones or apps becoming less popular with businesses or users. In fact, CNET reports that the British police have been told to stop talking on the police radio and to start texting to save the police tens of thousands of pounds. If the police use over the allotted limit of talk time on the radio, Airwave Solutions charges them $3 per second. So now British police are being trained to text more often for routine information. If the police are hunting a serial killer, they are still allowed to use their radio.

In security trends predicted for 2011, Imperva Security warns, "We expect exponential growth in the number of incidents related to mobile devices in the next few years. From theft or compromise of information in these devices, through massive infection campaigns, and up to frequent exploit of the vulnerabilities introduced into the server side."

If you don't have protection for your mobile phone, please consider getting some to help protect you from smishing, phishing, zombies, angry birds or whatever mobile malware threat is on the horizon.