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Beware the new smartphone virus

Patrick Collinson (SMH) | Aug. 1, 2011
Zeus is the most pernicious ''Trojan Horse'' on the internet.

At Trusteer, Boodaei forecasts that ''within 12 to 24 months, more than one in 20 of all Android phones and iPads/iPhones could become infected by mobile malware''.

Are Apple iPhones safer than Android? MWR InfoSecurity says Apple's famed security from viruses doesn't quite translate to mobile devices. ''Both platforms have problems,'' says the company. ''The Android market has quite a reputation for serving malware regularly, whereas Apple seems to be in better control of the content of the App Store. Android, however, has Sandbox [a security feature], which limits the impact of malicious or vulnerable applications. This can help limit the effectiveness of the malware, a feature that does not exist on the Apple platform.''

BlackBerry phones are considered safer to use, as their maker, RIM, ''keeps details of the platform a secret, which makes it much harder for attackers to write malware''.

All the experts are agreed that ''jailbreaking'' - where you remove the limitations imposed by Apple on iPhones and iPads - exposes the user to much wider security threats.

Why not simply add an anti-virus program to your smartphone? The bad news is that the phones may have been built so poorly in the first place that the anti-virus programs won't be much help. All they do is give a false sense of security to users, say the experts.

Last week, a report in InformationWeek, a respected US technology magazine, warned of an ingenious new approach by Zeus/Zitmo that tricks home PC users into downloading it on to their smartphone. The Trojan sleeps on the home PC until the user logs into a bank website. At that point it wakes up, intercepts the process, asking the user to download a new security device on to their mobile phone to complete the banking log-in process. But in reality, the new security device is the Zeus Trojan infecting their phone. Once it's on, it takes control of the user's phone.

At the heart of Zeus is a Russian developer who produces the source code and then licenses the program to numerous fraudsters in the criminal underworld. This software genius regularly sends out patches and updates so that every time it is detected Zeus bounces back again.

Don Jackson of Dell's security arm, SecureWorks, is the person who first discovered Zeus, in 2007.

''Zitmo has all the hallmarks of the original author of Zeus. This brand new version is his flagship new product, which he's making available to a select few. He writes it, sells it for huge amounts of money, and even supports his 'customers' to rid it of any bugs that develop.''GUARDIAN


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