Malicious Software Can Turn Your Phone Against You

Posted on 10 March 2010

According to the scientists from the Rutgers University, cell phones pose a great threat for users due to malicious software that can put at risk user’s personal and financial well-being.

The scientists have been successful in creating a malware, known as a rootkit that has the capability to turn a cell phone’s microphone, GPS and battery against the phone’s owner. By doing this, the researchers have stressed on the improvement need for greater protection of cell phone software.

Although Rootkits have been around for desktop computers since the mid 1990s, but as the difference between computers and smart phones is decreasing, cell phones have become as prone to attacks as desktops.

A rootkit is quite different and more difficult to detect as compared to other viruses. A virus is a tiny program that runs on a computer’s operating system, whereas a rootkit actually replaces part of the operating system causing much more harm to the system.

The newly developed rootkit affects three different parts of a smart phone, the microphone, the GPS and the battery. Although the rootkit wasn’t actually meant to infect commercial phones; it was just an effort to show what was possible and encourage research to fight these threats.

Through the rootkit, the scientists are able to turn on the phone’s microphone anytime they wanted, listening to nearby conversations. The rootkit can also be used to find out the phone’s location, using the GPS system, allowing the scientists to track the phone and the person using it from anywhere. It is also possible to use the rootkit to drain the phone’s battery by activating power-hungry hardware like the GPS receiver and the Bluetooth.

The rootkit works silently, and the user won’t realize that anything is wrong unless the phone’s owner pays special attention to their device.

Rootkits are also capable of affecting other parts of the phone, including the camera, the touchscreen and even the number pad. For example. when a person dials say, Bank of America to check their account balance, a hacker could redirect the phone call to another device and listen on to important conversations including person’s bank account number.

Such programs make it eminent that cell phones will soon be an even bigger target for hackers than computers, with even bigger vulnerabilities to exploit and with even bigger risks for consumers. Bluetooth in particular poses greater threat for smart phone owners as walking around with an open Bluetooth connection is just like walking around with your wallet open.

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