Friday, December 31, 2010

Wild West, Cell Phone Attacks and the Chinese Connection

Recently Android based mobile devices in China have been falling victim to a new virus that allows hackers to remotely access a user's personal data. The virus is known as the Geinimi and is thought to be the most powerful virus targeting mobile devices to have yet emerged.

While it's estimated that anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of phones have been infected authorities remain unsure as to what the motives to the attacks are.

This particular attack has alarm bells sounding because it is thought to represent a potential shift in hacker's strategy away from laptop and desktop computers towards increasingly sophisticated mobile devices. An infected phone could be remotely ordered to make calls, send texts and download even more malware and spyware programs.

So far the hackers in China are merely collecting data and have not instigated any other activity on infected phones.

The attack has drawn criticism to the Android platform, which allows applications designed and hosted from a variety of different vendors and has been labeled as, "Wild West" by analysts.

Owning an Android phone could potentially prove to be like owning a cool muscle car. Sure you can sup up your Android phone like a '72 GTO with all kinds of cool stuff added to it. But ultimately you may run into problems and have to get under the hood and tinker.

Apple, ever the dull safe Honda and Volvo of the technology world, does admittedly provide a more secure platform for its iPhone and iPad by maintaining an end-to-end control on its domain and not allowing applications from outside the marketplace.

The last thing I wanted to do was end the year with another gloomy "new virus from China" story but this one was too big to ignore. However Android users need not be alarmed as the virus has only infected phones through applications obtained from a handful of Chinese game app stores and not from apps obtained via the legitimate Google Android Market.

Compromised games include illegitimately sourced versions of; Monkey Jump 2, Sex Positions, President vs. Aliens, City Defense and Baseball Superstars 2010.

While not exactly urgent at the moment, the need to develop better anti-virus protection for mobile devices is probably one thing we can expect to see happening in 2011.

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