Anatomy of a Mobile Virus: Dismantling A Daisy Chain Explosive
By: Eric Everson
Commonly grouped along with external mobile threats, mobile viruses have become common throughout today’s mobile community. The fleeting question on the mind of so many mobile owners is why. To understand today’s mobile virus, one must look back at the evolution of computer viruses. Viruses don’t typically enter a medium such as mobile communication as malicious attacks rather they start with software developers pushing the limits of modern coding. Initial developments in computer viruses would often remove or otherwise alter a strategic kernel or other file type in effort of achieving a desired result. Mobile viruses began with much of the same innocence. The early mobile viruses would merely drain the battery of a mobile handset while today’s mobile viruses can practically render a cell phone useless.
To understand why mobile viruses have become so destructive one must understand that as a hacker the more malicious your virus is the better it is. As a group, hackers are scientist that in my humble opinion, fuel the development of technology. Generally hackers get a bad wrap, but it is their persistence in exploring the edge of technology that makes them extremely interesting. The reason mobile viruses are so fascinating to me is that dissecting them really is – this is the former U.S. Marine about to come through – like dismantling daisy chain explosives. In case you’re not the military type, daisy chain explosives are any variety of bombs that are interlinked to cause a chain of explosions that to the naked eye looks like a single blast.
Without getting too technical, almost every mobile virus has four major sections of anatomy: The Jacket, The Filament, The Charge, and the Trigger.
The Jacket: This is the only part of the virus that the general public ever knows about. This includes the virus type/class and the “trojanesque” characteristics that always end up in the media.
The Filament: This is really the nuts and bolts of a mobile virus. All of the scripted coding exists in this layer of the mobile virus. As a virus hunter, this is really the most fascinating part of the virus for me because as you’re dismantling it one false key stroke can end the decryption process. Anytime I am going through the filament of a virus I liken it to Catherine Zeta-Jones making her way through the lasers. One false move and all your decryption work is in vein.
The Charge: I call this the charge or nucleus of the virus because this is what really acts as the neurological system of the virus. If you can make your way to the charge, about any virus can be dismantled by the right person.
The Trigger: I saved this piece for the last because it is the trickiest part of any mobile virus. The trigger is much like the blasting cap for TNT. This piece of the virus is what “triggers” everything. It would be the pin of the grenade or the catalyst of a chemical reaction. The trigger is what allows the virus to do what it is designed to do. In a mobile handset for example, the trigger would scan for “file X” and when it finds it the fury of the virus will be set in motion. The thing that makes a trigger so had to identify is that it is almost always encrypted or somewhere buried in what sometimes seems like endless filament.
By now I’ve either kept your interest and have intrigued your thirst for more or I have painted myself as the mad scientist you want to keep on your side. I assure you I only use my knowledge of this area for the good of the mobile community, so you can set your mad scientist image aside. By understanding the viral world we at MyMobiSafe.com can concentrate on increasing the security of the mobile community. For someone like myself, this is a fascinating world of digital exploration and we are at the forefront of what is to come. As a mobile user, you should increase your knowledge about the threats that exist to your mobile device. Of course I hope that you will entrust MyMobiSafe.com with the security of your mobile device, but that is for you to decide. I think that while some players in the industry are more profit driven than passion driven, collectively we all want to make the mobile community a safer place for each cell phone user. With increases in mobile content such as games, video, internet, and banking mobile security is becoming a reality for all cell phone owners. Viruses are not just something that people with Blackberry/Smartphones need to worry about – all mobile devices have security vulnerabilities. Keep following my blog to learn more about security in a mobile world.
Eric Everson, Founder