Beware of third party developed Angry Birds! They could be dropping malware onto your smartphone. Popular mobile games are being illegally copied and repackaged with malicious code designed to steal personal information or perform other functions, according to a ComputerWorld quoting a study due to be released soon from Lookout Mobile Security.
As part of its “App Genome Project” study, Lookout examined applications in two alternative Android application marketplaces aimed at Chinese speaking users. 11% of the applications were knock-offs and stuffed with additional code. One of the most commonly cloned applications is Monkey Jump. It isn’t immediately clear what some of the code does in those tampered-with applications does, but there are a few possibilities, such as creating a botnet or sending text messages to premium rate numbers. Other possibilities are that the applications are used to sign up to pay by click advertising schemes, with the profits channeled to miscreants rather than the legitimate publisher.
In December, Lookout discovered a piece of Android malware called “Geinimi” that contained functions similar to botnet code designed for a PC, communicating with a command-and-control server which issued commands to phones remotely, such as to install or uninstall software. Since that time, Lookout has discovered many more variants, indicating that hackers are still actively working on its code.
On the bright side, the App Genome Study has also found that developers seem to be more aware of security and privacy issues. The number of apps in both the Android Market and Apple’s App Store that access a person’s location and contacts info has gone down. “We believe that is due to the fact that developers are becoming more educated about privacy,” Hering said. “Developers are starting to be privacy- and security-conscious for their users.”