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Researcher demos terrifying proof-of-concept malware

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A security researcher has developed a proof-of-concept malware capable of capturing the actions of users on touchscreen devices.

Senior security consultant Neal Hindocha and his colleagues at Trustwave were able to brew up similar strains of prototype malicious code for both rooted Android and jailbroken iOS devices. The line of attack also worked on unmodified Androids provided they were connected to a computer.

Hindocha is an expert in penetration testing, reverse engineering and secure source code review. His work taking apart banking Trojans and analysing the security of banking and retail applications on mobile devices led him towards an investigation into whether it might be possible to develop malicious code that records the actions on mobile devices.

In an upcoming presentation at the RSA USA conference later this month Hindocha will outline how he found it was possible to create keyloggers for iOS and Android that are as powerful as keyloggers on Windows.

We already knew that was possible for malware to hook into software keyboard applications on Android. Hindocha research takes this one step further by focusing on the touchscreen of devices.

The research is aimed at highlighting weakness, and developing defences before malware authors latch onto the same idea. The prototype touchloggers developed by Hindocha were capable of capture everything a user did on a touchscreen device not just where a user touches the screen on a smartphones or tablet. the malware can take screenshots which can be overlaid with co-ordinate information to work out what someone is doing, at least in theory.

Hindocha told El Reg that although the route of attack is "not viable" on the scale of the mega-heist against Target and other US retailers the issue ought to be of concern for developers of touchscreen applications for point of sale terminals in retail environments, a key potential target for future touchlogging malware. The problem is far from restricted to mobile devices thanks to the support of touchscreen technology by Windows 8 devices.

Touchlogger malware also presents a way of capturing logins to corporate systems from workers on the road as part of a spear phishing attack. As such sys admins of high security systems already need to start thinking about potential attacks, Hindocha advised. "This is unlikely to appear in general attacks," Hindocha explained.

The proof-of-concept malware works on Android 4.1 and 4.3. Similar variants of the code were ported by Hindocha's colleagues at Trustwave and work on iOS 7.0 devices.

The presentation at RSA is due to outline countermeasures to guard against potential attacks. ®

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