Feeds

Google denies Redmond report of a spamming Android botnet

'Show us the evidence,' says Chocolate Factory

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Google is disputing claims from a Microsoft researcher that a functioning botnet is operating on Android phones and spamming out Viagra and penny stock adverts to unsuspecting punters.

Terry Zink, program manager for Microsoft Forefront online security, took time during the annual July 4 "We're kicking out the Brits and will spell color any way we please" holiday to post an analysis of a spam operation using Yahoo!'s webmail service. The spam uses the message ID 1341147286.19774.androidMobile@web140302.mail.bf1.yahoo.com and includes the line "Sent from Yahoo! Mail on Android"

"All of these message are sent from Android devices," he said. "We’ve all heard the rumors, but this is the first time I have seen it – a spammer has control of a botnet that lives on Android devices. These devices login to the user's Yahoo Mail account and send spam."

Zink said that those IP addresses that included location data indicated the infected devices were located in Chile, Indonesia, Lebanon, Oman, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Venezuela. He attributed this to the likelihood that local Android apps sites were selling malware-laced software for the Android.

"The evidence does not support the Android botnet claim," Google told The Register in a statement. "Our analysis suggests that spammers are using infected computers and a fake mobile signature to try to bypass anti-spam mechanisms in the email platform they're using."

Zink's announcement certainly set tongues wagging in the security industry, with vendors split on whether or not this is an actual Android botnet or a clever spoof using PCs looking to imitate such a scenario.

Sophos senior security advisor Chet Wisniewski told The Register that spam was still coming in from the botnet at a rate of around five pieces an hour, and the circumstantial evidence seemed to suggest a functioning Android botnet.

"There's just little pieces of evidence that this is coming from an Android handset, but no smoking gun that proves the case entirely," he said.

On Thursday, Zink posted an update to his original report, admitting that the case for the botnet was not proven. It would be possible to use a PC to strip out the Yahoo! message IDs and replace them, he said, and to add the sent-from-an-Android message. He has considered this could all be an "elaborate deception" by spammers, but that he stands by his original findings.

Yahoo! told El Reg in a statement that it was investigating the case and that it encourages users of its mobile applications to only buy applications from registered marketplaces. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.