Feeds

Symbian signing is no protection from spyware

One man's Trojan is another's legitimate app

High performance access to file storage

Spyware for Symbian version 9 is now available signed and verified through the Symbian Signed process, according to anti-malware specialist F-Secure.

Though such applications track what the user is doing and automatically upload that information to a remote server, at least one application is carrying a Symbian Signed qualification; removing warnings that usually pop up when software is installed on a phone.

To gain Symbian Signed status an application must pass a series of tests such as displaying a privacy statement when the application is first launched, and a notification the first time a billable event is triggered. A signed application bypasses the warnings normally displayed when establishing network connections - ideal for spyware, but also useful for dozens of legitimate applications.

In theory, Symbian Signed, or anyone else, could certify applications as benign, but attempts to do so have fallen down in identifying what "benign" actually means. "Nokia OK", the predecessor to Symbian Signed, attempted to vet applications for quality, but ended up being too restrictive. The Symbian-Signed spyware now available would never have passed Nokia OK, but neither did many useful applications.

The problem is that users may perceive the presence of a signature, and certificate, to be proof of an application's benign nature. Indeed, according to the Symbian Signed website: "Symbian Signed builds trust and confidence in third party applications and assists the industry in delivering high quality applications to end-users."

Though quite how much trust is gained by signing spyware applications we don't know.

Digital signatures do serve a useful purpose - they track who wrote and published that application, no more and no less. But knowing that an application was signed by RBackupPRO (as in the case of the Symbian spyware) is little use when even a Google search turns up nothing more than a few articles highlighting this very problem.

A digital signature might tell you who to sue after the event, assuming you become aware that your data has been compromised, but it won't protect you before the damage is done.

It looks as though mobile phone users are just going to have to stick to installing software from known brands, and paying companies such as F-Secure to keep track of malware, rather than realising the potential digital signatures offered. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Broadband Secretary of SHEEP sensationally quits Cabinet
Maria Miller finally resigns over expenses row
Skype pimps pro-level broadcast service
Playing Cat and Mouse with the media
Beat it, freetards! Dyn to shut down no-cost dynamic DNS next month
... but don't worry, charter members, you're still in 'for life'
Like Google, Comcast might roll its own mobile voice network
Says anything's possible if regulators approve merger with Time Warner
EE dismisses DATA-BURNING glitch with Orange Mail app
Bug quietly slurps PAYG credit - yet EE denies it exists
Turnbull leaves Australia's broadband blackspots in the dark
New Statement of Expectations to NBN Co offers get-out clauses for blackspot builds
Facebook claims 100 MEEELLION active users in India
Who needs China when you've got the next billion in your sights?
Facebook splats in-app chat, whacks brats into crack yakety-yak app
Jibber-jabbering addicts turfed out just as Zuck warned
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.