11:59 AM

Hackers Hijack 1 Million China Cell Phones

Zombie text sending malware is racking up $300,000 in charges per day.

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More than 1 million cell phone users in China has been infected with a virus that automatically sends text messages, and the attack is costing users a combined 2 million yuan ($300,000 U.S.) per day.

According to Shanghai Daily, "the 'zombie' virus, hidden in a bogus antivirus application, can send the phone user's SIM card information to hackers, who then remotely control the phone to send URL links."

Some of the dispatched text messages contain links to more viruses. Click the link, and your phone could likewise be infected. Other text messages get automatically dispatched to premium-rate phone numbers, generating profits for the attackers while draining subscribers' accounts.

Mobile security expert Zou Shihong at Beijing University Posts and Telecommunications likened the new attack to a pyramid scheme, since by texting everyone in an infected user's address book, the malicious code has the potential to spread exponentially.

According to Zhou Yonglin, an official with China's National Computer Network Emergency Response Team, about 1 million cell phones had been infected since the beginning of September, and mobile operators were having difficulty eradicating the malicious application, owing to the breakneck pace of new variations appearing.

The cell phone virus attack mirrors the Troj/SymbSms-A malware seen earlier this year, which infects Symbian phones. That particular attack targeted Russian cell phone subscribers, infecting their phones with a virus that automatically texted premium-rate Russian phone numbers.

Expect an increase in the number of viruses that target cell phones for profit, according to a recent analysis of mobile device security trends from security vendor Imperva. "We expect exponential growth in the number of incidents related to mobile devices in the next few years... from theft or compromise of information in these devices, through massive infection campaigns, and up to frequent [exploits] of the vulnerabilities introduced into the server side."

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