Mosquito Trojan bites smartphones

A virus that is able to send costly SMS messages from smartphones is now in the wild
Written by Will Sturgeon, Contributor

Hot on the heels of the first proof-of-concept smartphone virus, mobile operating system maker Symbian is warning that a Trojan is infecting phones in the wild and sending text messages to premium rate numbers.

The victims of the virus are mobile phone users who have knowingly downloaded an illegal version of the game 'Mosquitos' to play on their handset. However, embedded in their illegal download is a Trojan that infects the phone and sends the costly SMS messages without the owner realising -- until their next bill arrives.

Many in the security industry have warned that such a platform is ripe for attack --- particularly when users lack awareness of potential threats and many will unwittingly 'go looking for' the viruses by actively downloading games or other content.

Last week Sal Viveros, wireless security evangelist at McAfee, echoed a previous sentiment when he told silicon.com it was "only a matter of time" before viruses targeting smartphone users on Symbian handsets became cause for real concern.

Speaking to ZDNet UK's sister site silicon.com today Viveros took no satisfaction from being proved right so quickly.

"We always suspected Trojans would be the first problem encountered on mobiles. The people falling victim to these kinds of attacks are likely to young, technology early adopters who probably don't understand the threats. They may have just got their new phone and looking to try out games and other downloads."

Symbian insists users installing the game will have been made aware by an authentication warning that the game could be illegal and as such would be prone to many of the same threats posed by illegal software online. A spokesman for Symbian told silicon.com that users need to be aware of the risks of downloading illegal software from an unknown source, such as a number of warez Web sites.

A statement on the Symbian Web site said: "The only way to infect a phone with the malware is by deliberate installation of an illegal copy of the Mosquitos game by the user. Installation of the game requires the user to ignore two warnings that the identity of the application developer is unknown."

Viveros warned this won't be the last virus which targets smartphone users. "Whenever we see something which is successful we see copycats," he said, adding that the explosion of games, ring-tone and wallpaper download services advertised on television and in the back of magazines and newspapers means it has become sprawling, chaotic and difficult to regulate. "There is a big potential for abuse," he added.

A spokesman for the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (Icstis) which handles complaints about illegal dialler activity and premium rate scams said the organisation has received no complaints from consumers about the Mosquito Trojan but he added it is aware of the problem and urged any consumers affected to contact them.

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