Feeds

Mobile botnet threat downplayed

DON'T PANIC

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Could botnets - the scourge of consumer security - be on the verge of going mobile? The prospect seems some way off but even so mobile operators and security watchers are more than a little spooked.

Job de Haas, a researcher at security firm ITSX, told delegates at the recent Black Hat conference in Amsterdam that client side browser exploits on mobile phones pose a serious risk. In theory, a successful compromise could be used to turn smartphones into proxies under the control of hackers, controlled over VoIP connections. Risks include toll fraud, the installation of auto diallers, and sending high cost SMS/MMS messages. "Currently Symbian is not prepared for serious attacks," de Haas, whose previous research revealed how malformed SMS messages could be used to crash mobiles, added.

Botnot

The increased computing power in the latest smartphones leaves them more vulnerable to viral attack but getting users to download and install malign code remains a huge barrier, unlike the Windows PC arena. Trojans such as Phatbot are often used to seize control of Windows PCs, turning them into zombie clients in networks of compromised PCs (botnets). These botnets are used to send spam or as platforms for DDoS attacks, carrying out criminal attacks right under the noses of their rightful owners.

Mobile industry representatives present at de Haas's presentation on Symbian Security discounted the immediate threat of 'mobile botnets' and said there were still several barriers to overcome before an attack that might yield control of substantial numbers of Symbian-based smartphones could even be seriously attempted.

Mobile malware menace

Mobile viruses, such as Cabir, spread between mobile phones running Symbian Series 60 using Bluetooth technology. More recent viruses, such as CommWarrior, can spread using MMS. But incidents of infection by such viruses are rare and unknown without user interaction. "So-far all of known attacks have needed user confirmation. Often more than once," de Haas said.

Even though the threat from mobile viruses - much less mobile botnets - is still low a representative from a leading European mobile carrier told El Reg that was it considered one of the greatest security threats it faced this year.

Patrik Runald, senior technical consultant at F-Secure, said remotely executable code on mobiles remains unknown. "Without an exploit you’d have to trick people into executing a maliciously constructed MMS file, spammed out in an attempt to seize control of multiple smartphones, or something like that. People are more used to downloading and executing files on PCs than on mobiles so it’s much harder to spread malicious code on mobiles."

"Apart from the built-in billing system on mobiles, I don't know why anyone would want to build a mobile botnet. A broadband-connected PC has a much faster connection than a mobile and it’s less likely to be turned off, so the connection is more stable. Attackers can make money from compromised PCs through porn dialler scams, for example." ®

Related stories

Rise of the botnets
Britain tops zombie PC charts
Alternative browser spyware infects IE
Cabir added to payload of Symbian mobile Trojan
Symbian worm source code slips out
MMS virus discovered
Botnets, phishing and spyware
SMS phone crash exploit a risk for older Nokias
How to crash a phone by SMS

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.