Feeds

Security boffins say music could trigger mobile malware

Justin Bieber really evil virus theory just got more credible

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Security researchers have discovered that specific music, lighting, vibrations or magnetic fields could all be used as infection channels to trigger the activation of mobile malware on a massive scale.

The paper, titled Sensing-Enabled Channels for Hard-to-Detect Command and Control of Mobile Devices, was presented in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou earlier this month by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

The research describes at length how hard-to-detect non-internet channels can be used to trigger malware hidden in smartphones and other mobile devices from up to 55 feet away.

“When you go to an arena or Starbucks, you don’t expect the music to have a hidden message, so this is a big paradigm shift because the public sees only emails and the internet as vulnerable to malware attacks,” said UAB professor Ragib Hasan in a canned statement.

“We devote a lot of our efforts towards securing traditional communication channels. But when bad guys use such hidden and unexpected methods to communicate, it is difficult if not impossible to detect that.”

On the audio front, the report claimed that “command and control trigger messages” could be sent over 55 feet indoors and 45 feet outdoors, even using “low-end PC speakers with minimal amplification and low-volume”.

It speculated that malware could be activated with messages hidden in TV or radio programmes, background music and even musical greeting cards.

The light channel works best at night or in places with low illumination but could be relayed to a large number of devices and over “reasonably long distances” using large screen TVs, the report said.

The magnetic channel was described as having the shortest range although with the added advantage for the attackers of being able to work whether the device is being carried in the hand or inside a pocket.

“This kind of attack is sophisticated and difficult to build, but it will become increasingly easier to accomplish in the future as technology improves,” said UAB doctoral student Shams Zawoad, in a separate canned statement.

“We need to create defences before these attacks become widespread, so it is better that we find out these techniques first and stay one step ahead.”

A trip to the local Starbucks may never be the same again… ®

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

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
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.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
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.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?