JavaMites: Next Generation Mobile Security Threats
Author: Eric Everson – Founder, MyMobiSafe.com
As you may be familiar, upwards of 86% of mobile devices are now Java-enabled. This mass scale Java adoption in mobile is merely a result of the interoperability issues third-party content developers faced throughout the wireless industry. Java has been critical in the mobile environment for allowing an abundance of content to become accessible to users that would have otherwise faced interoperability hurdles caused by Mobile Operating Systems (MOPS). While the migration of creating Java-enabled handsets have been welcomed by millions starved for quality mobile content, the introduction of JavaMites has opened a new chapter of mobile security.
As defined in my Whitepaper (JavaMites: The Emerging Universal Mobile Threat 1Q09) a “JavaMite is any executable software or script written in (or with) the aide of a Java Software Development Kit/Component to specifically alter or otherwise tamper with the operational components of a mobile handset or device.” This is a technical way of saying that if your handset is Java-enabled (as most of ours now are) there is a new form of mobile malware that you should be aware of.
How new is it? In all honesty this cutting-edge form of mobile malware began surfacing towards the end of 2008, but was not successfully executed until a few weeks ago. You may have heard about that mobile virus (more technically referred to as JavaMite file: Trojan-SMS.J2ME.GameSat.a) that targeted handsets in Indonesia to successfully override their handsets to transfer money from their mobile banking accounts. This was the first documented JavaMite attack that has been recorded, but unfortunately due to its success will not be the last of its kind.
Why are these “JavaMites” so different that anything else? Simply put, this form of mobile malware forces the curtains open to expose the pregnable weakness of nearly every mobile device. With the ability to infect the masses, JavaMites offer the first global platform for mobile security vulnerability. Much of this technology development has been driven by the availability of Open Source MOPS Software Development Kits (SDK) as JavaMite malware can now effectively gain control of the operating files (the sandbox of the handset) that were once inaccessible given a Java SDK alone.
This is an emerging threat that has yet to become a mainstream concern. As a safeguard, be very cautious when opening emails with attachments and when downloading new applications/content with your mobile device. Since the bulk of handsets are Java-enabled, the days of mobile malware targeting only one MOPS are behind us. We expect to see JavaMites emerge as the preferred platform of next generation mobile malware due to its ability to infect handsets by the masses. In short, whether you are an individual from a small business or one at a major corporate enterprise you share the same risks against JavaMites - these things are really scary!
As always, I’ll keep you up to date on the developments in this area.
Your friend in mobile security,
Eric E - “AKA: The MobileTech”
Eric Everson is a leading mobile security researcher and is the founder of MyMobiSafe.com: The Infrastructure of Delivery; The Future of Mobile Security. If you would like to contact Eric Everson for interview or with research related inquiries contact him directly at EricEverson@Hotmail.com.