Life Tech The simple SMS that could destroy your smartphone

The simple SMS that could destroy your smartphone

One simple text message and you could lose the lot.
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Hackers could wipe your Android smartphone data in an instant or rack up thousands of dollars of usage though a virus spread by opening a simple text message.

This was the latest form of malware infiltrating Android phones on Wednesday, with Apple iPhone users being targeted by a nasty bug earlier this week which left phones frozen on the loading screen.

On Wednesday it was reported that Danish-based security company Heimdal discovered the new form of malware that could gain administrator rights on Android phones when installed.

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Mazar, as it was known, could authorise attackers to wipe handsets and read and send premium texts or phone calls, BBC News reported.

The company said more than 100,000 users had fallen victim to the virus across Denmark, but there had not yet been reports from other countries about the bug.

It was also found that if the phone language was set to Russian, it wouldn’t be installed.

Victims would have unchecked a default setting that made sure software was only installed from a “trusted source”.

Heimdal CEO Morten Kjaersgaard said this appeared to be the first time Mazar was detected in “widespread, real world attacks”.

“It can do a lot of damage – maybe running up a big phone bill for which the customer would be liable,” Mr Kjaersgaard told the BBC.

“It’s not like when you use your credit card and there’s an international standard for banks covering [fraud].”

What to look out for

More than 1000,000 users fell victim to the virus in Denmark. Photo: Getty
More than 1000,000 users fell victim to the virus in Denmark. Photo: Getty

First of all, the user will receive what looks like a harmless multimedia text message.

Once opened, the link downloads Tor software which – in laymen’s terms – would allow anonymous internet connections into the smartphone.

Then, the malware will download through Tor, to try to hide the source of the evil software.

Mr Kjaersgaard said Heimdal tested phones running Android Kitkat (version 4.4) and it appeared that the issue was most likely to affect all prior versions.

Later versions had not been tested, he said.

In July 2015, a bug known as Stagefright threatened more than 950 million Android users before Google fixed the vulnerability, Refinery 29 reported.

“Over one billion devices are protected with Google Play which conducts 200 million security scans of devices per day,” a Google spokeswoman told the BBC.

“Fewer than 1 per cent of Android devices had a Potentially Harmful App installed in 2014, and fewer than 0.15 per cent of devices that only install from Google Play had a Potentially Harmful App installed.”

As well as the Apple iPhone bug this week, in May 2015 a message including Arabic and other non-Roman characters caused the recipient’s phone to restart and made it difficult for them to open their Messages app.


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