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Trojan Steals Cash From Symbian Phones

A Trojan targeting Indonesian Symbian users hijacks the SMS system to transfer funds from the user's account to one held by criminals.

Symbian is the most popular mobile operating system for smartphones with about 45% of the worldwide market. But being the leader also means you're a prime target for hackers, and a security firm said it found an attack that enables malicious programmers to control a user's mobile phone account.

Kaspersky Lab said it has discovered a malicious program aimed at Indonesian Symbian mobile phone users. For the attack to work, the hackers need users to download a Trojan that's written in Python. It then sends SMS messages to a short code number with instructions to transfer money from the user's account to the criminal's account. The average transfer was between 45 and 90 cents, and the security firm said there are five known variants of the Trojan.

"Obviously, the authors of the Trojan want to make money," said Denis Maslennikov, a senior malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab, in a statement. "It seems that the focus on financial fraud in the mobile malware industry will only get more pronounced over time."

Maslennikov said the SMS malware was previously seen as purely a Russian phenomenon, but this latest attack is proof that mobile security is an international issue. Users of Kaspersky Lab's mobile security products are protected from the exploit. Symbian had not verified the exploit as of press time, but an over-the-air update could potentially fix the problem.

Another Symbian exploit recently brought to light could crash a phone's SMS system. The "Curse of Silence" enables hackers to specially format an e-mail to be sent as an SMS, and if the message has more than 32 characters, certain S60 devices would not be able to send or receive other SMS or MMS messages.

While there have yet to be large-scale mobile viruses or attacks, the threat continues to grow as more companies carry sensitive data on smartphones. InformationWeek took a look at how to make sure your smartphone data is secure on the go, and the report can be found here.

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