If growing malware threats are a sign of operating system success (epidemic malware on Windows is certainly a symptom of the operating system's ubiquity), then it looks like Android really will beat iOS in the smartphone wars. Researchers have just discovered a powerful trojan called Geinimi targeted at Chinese Android users that could allow for anything from remote control of the phone to the creation of Android botnets.
According to CNET News,
Lookout Mobile Security...said Geinimi displays botnet-like qualities and is the most sophisticated wireless malware it has seen. Thus far, infected programs have only been seen on various Chinese app stores.
"Geinimi is effectively being 'grafted' onto repackaged versions of legitimate applications, primarily games, and distributed in third-party Chinese Android app markets," Lookout said in a blog post on Wednesday.
The security firm said it has already updated both the paid and free versions of its software to protect against Geinimi.
China today, US tomorrow. This trojan should serve as fair warning for Android users: mobile phones and tablets, even those with Linux underpinnings, are not immune to malware. It echoes a Microsoft argument against the apparent superiority of Linux security, notably that if Linux were as popular as Windows, it would be plagued with viruses too. As Android emerges as the dominant smartphone platform, users should be aware of the risks of downloaded applications.
Use of a security app like Lookout (available for free in the Android market) as well as vigilance around user privileges (most malware grafted to legitimate applications requests extensive system permissions when installed) will be necessary going forward. Let's just hope that Lookout stays relatively unobtrusive and Norton does't get into the mobile security business until we have quad-core phones.