AdaptiveMobile uncovers a new mobile malware threat originating in Russia that is spreading across the globe. As part of AdaptiveMobile’s Ongoing Threat Analysis (OTA) which reports on global mobile security threats, the company has uncovered a series of scams first appearing in Russia, and now being seen across the globe, which involve criminals profiting by sending out text messages with web links to mobile malware.
When opened, these links automatically start downloading malware to a user’s phone, using what is known as the ‘drive-by’ download technique – the link downloads a fake app which applies premium rate services to the subscriber’s account when accessed.
A recent example spammed mobile users with SMS messages informing them that they had received an MMS message saying “I love you”.
“You have an incoming MMS with text “Anastasia, I love you!”.
In Russia, the links were designed to look like the websites used by Russian operators and when clicked automatically downloaded an Android or J2ME version of a fake MMS viewer application on the phone. When opened, the app sent five SMS messages costing approximately £13 to premium short code numbers without informing the user. The app then displays a fake MMS with two pictures from an unspecified woman on a tropical beach. The Android version also intercepted and deleted confirmation messages from the short codes to hide the attack.
Users only reported this issue when a significant amount of money had been taken from their account, allowing the organisation to drain multiple accounts of small amounts before being discovered. This particular scam is believed to have generated a significant income for the criminals behind the scheme.
“SMS is still the most popular form of communication amongst adults and is highly trusted, making it very attractive to spammers looking to abuse that confidence,” says Ciaran Bradley, VP of Handset Security, AdaptiveMobile. “Although these scams are most prevalent in Russia, we’ve seen a number of copycat compound threats, using SMS and social engineering to deliver mobile malware to users’ phones via this ‘drive-by’ download technique, appearing across the globe. Whilst many operators already have measures in place to counter SMS spam, it is important that they are aware of these specific threats so that they ensure the correct action is taken.”