Saturday, October 12, 2013

One Way Your Android Phone Can Get a Virus

Kevin McNamee stands in front of his laptop on a low stage, a phone in his hand as he scrolls through a program showing his phone’s screen, magnified on a projector screen beside him.

Bits of code start flashing up the screen as he injects command-and-control malware into the command window of the app for Rovio Entertainment Ltd.’s trademark game, Angry Birds – transforming the app into a new version he’s dubbed “Very Angry Birds.”

“And here we go,” he says, frowning down at the screen as he begins to run the new app.

McNamee was presenting at Sector 2013, a conference on all things IT security held in Toronto from Oct. 7 to 9. The director of Kindsight Security Labs at Alcatel-Lucent Canada Inc. in Ottawa, McNamee wanted to show how simple it is to use an Android software development kit to add in malware.

When a user downloads a malware-infested version of the app, he or she is asked to sign off on all kinds of permissions, like access to contact lists, the camera, and so on. If a user carelessly checks off ‘yes’ on all the options, the app is activated with a piece of malware called “Droid Whisper,” and the hacker who wrote it now has access to the phone owner’s contact lists, location, messages, camera, and microphone. That means someone can remotely listen in and record phone conversations, send messages to the phone owner’s contacts, and even take pictures from that phone.

This process can work by injecting malware into basically any Android app by using its application package tool, and it just runs as a service in the background, McNamee said. (more) (presentation)