Feeds

Don’t let mobile malware steal your company data

It’s closer than you think

Seven Steps to Software Security

The mobile malware landscape is changing. Standardisation might be a good thing for building ecosystems and making phones more useful, but the emergence of Android and iOS as leaders in the operating-system wars makes life easier for those who would target the data on your corporate devices.

It also means there is more to steal, with the ability to generate revenue through reversed billed text, calls to premium-rate numbers and banking on mobile devices.

It is common practice to prohibit user-bought laptops from the corporate network and most employees accept this, yet the rules are different for phones.

Secret agents

According to security researchers, back-door Trojans, which steal data without the victim’s knowledge, and malware that goes after banking login information made up the largest portion of all new mobile malware families in Q2 2013, adding 17,000 strains to their database.

We have recently seen a number of spy-phone Trojans. They include Android Backflash, which installs an icon that looks like Adobe flash and opens a back door, and the BadNews bug, which was found in 32 different apps on Google Play.

This installed a downloader, which in turn called in a premium SMS dialler. Estimates range between two and nine million infections.

Mobile malware is no longer a threat that is still over the horizon. And it is not just spammers and crooks who are out to get you.

Knowing what you are fighting is an important part of protection, says Charles Brookson of mobile consultancy Azenby.

Brookson designed the A5/1 and subsequent encryption standards for GSM. He heads the security group of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute and the GSM Association security group, so he is not just a person who knows about mobile security but one who draws up the rules.

Hell hath no fury

Brookson points out that falling foul of general malware is very different to being targeted by a rival, jealous spouses or governments.

The three ‘E’s of mobile data security are engineering, enforcement and education. Perhaps the most common type of engineering solution is the secure container. This takes the form of a sand-boxed run-time environment, often based on the NSA-derived Security-Enhanced Linux.

Daniel Brodie of Lacoon Mobile Security explains: “This is done by encrypting the data on the phone and providing additional data security features, such as copy-paste data loss prevention.

“A common scenario is for secure containers to enable companies to perform a remote-wipe only on an ex-employee’s business data, rather than removing all mobile data, thus relieving the anguish (and possibly also the legal ramifications) of deleting the employee’s personal photographs as well.“

The secure container can be on a standard phone. The US security firm General Dynamics bought the company OK Labs for its security container, which it runs on LG phones sold to the US marines.

The recent vulnerability in the Exynos5 chipset in the drivers used by the camera and multimedia devices creates a hidden Suid (set owner user ID) binary and uses it for privileged operations, such as reading the mobile logs. The file is placed in an execute-only directory, which allows it to remain hidden from most root detectors.

The spy-phone listens to events in the Android debug bridge logs. These logs, and their corresponding access permissions, differ between Android versions. For versions 2.3 or less, it is possible to simply use the logging permissions.

For Android version 4.0 and higher, root permissions are required to view the logs. The spy-phone waits for a log event that signifies that the user is reading an email; by dumping the heap it can work out the email structure and send the mail on to whoever is doing the spying.

This of course needs both a very determined attack and a set of circumstances, but the engineering lesson here is to keep operating systems up to date.

Down to earth

The main reason most security professionals praise BlackBerry's security is its end-to-end service. Keeping control of the servers is as important as keeping control of the device.

It is not just the data on the device that companies need to worry about. According to Brookson, mail should be hosted on a server at the company premises.

This might be hugely unfashionable in the era of the cloud. But really, if your users are backing up their most sensitive data over the air, you should know where they are backing it up to.

And don’t forget voice. Many companies have to record calls for regulatory reasons. In the UK this is mandated by the Financial Conduct Authority, which was set up in the fallout of the bank mis-selling scandal.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

Next page: From the first SIP

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
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
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
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.
Reducing security risks from open source software
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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.