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Android Spyware Distributed By Third Party Online Marketplaces

On the heels of HongTouTou, Chinese security firm NetQin has found spyware -- SW.SecurePhone and SW.Qieting -- that collects messages, call logs, and other data.

Security experts have found more malware targeting Android smartphones, less than two weeks after the click fraud app dubbed HongTouTou was found in a variety of applications on third-party online marketplaces.

Security firm NetQuin Mobile reported Friday that it had discovered in the wild two spyware programs named SW.SecurePhone and SW.Qieting. The latest malware reflects the growing number of Trojans, spyware, and other malicious applications targeting smartphones running Google's Android operating system.

SW.SecurePhone is primarily distributed in the U.S. through third-party online marketplaces. Once installed, the app runs in the background, monitoring phone activity and saving collected data on the SD card. Captured data includes messages, call log, location of the phone, recorded sounds around the phone, and pictures, according to NetQin.

Data stolen from the phone is uploaded to a remote server every 20 minutes, compromising the phone user's privacy and eating up allotted data in the user's data plan. SW.Qieting, which has been found outside the U.S., also runs in the background and automatically forwards messages received by a phone.

NetQin, a large mobile security firm in China, said it was the first to discover the Geinimi Trojan last November. The malware started in China and attracted the attention of security experts because of its sophistication. Lookout, a U.S. mobile security firm, said Geinimi was the first Android malware found in the wild to display "botnet-like capabilities.

"Once the malware is installed on a user's phone, it has the potential to receive commands from a remote server that allow the owner of that server to control the phone," the company said in its blog.

Lookout discovered the HongTouTou Trojan this month, finding the malware within Android apps in third-party marketplaces. HongTouTou was found repackaged in a well-known game called RoboDefense and in a variety of wallpaper apps.

HongTouTou was built to commit click fraud, which is the use of an app to automate fake clicks on online advertising. Ad publishers often receive compensation based on the number of clicks on an ad. The number of fake clicks recorded on ads increased in the fourth quarter of last year to19.1% from 15.3% in the same period a year ago, Click Forensics reported.

Android apps are more vulnerable to malware implants because Google allows the apps to be offered by third-party app stores, which may not monitor submissions closely. By comparison, Apple takes a walled garden approach by vetting all apps before publishing them on its App Store.

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