Tuesday, August 9, 2011

App for Google Android smartphones secretly records calls


A Nexus One smartphoneA mobile application for Google's Android smartphones can secretly record users' phone calls and transmit them to malicious hackers, security researchers have found.
Once downloaded by a user, the app – which the researcher has not named, but seems to have a name relating to "System Messages" – surreptitiously stores a recording of the user's incoming and outgoing calls to the phone's memory card, according to the New York-based security experts CA Technologies.
In a blog post unveiling the finding, researcher Dinesh Venkatesan said the so-called "Trojan app" is one of the most invasive they have ever uncovered. He also warned that there is an increasing trend targeting smartphones using Google's Android software, which allows developers to submit apps with little vetting.
Google had not returned requests for comment at the time of publication.
Venkateskan wrote on the researcher's official blog: "In one of our earlier blogs, we have demonstrated how a Trojan logs all the details of incoming/outgoing calls and call duration in a text file.
"This Trojan is more advanced as it records the conversation itself in 'amr' format [which is optimised for recording speech]. Also it has many other malicious activities that we have seen in many of the earlier malware incidents targeted for Android platform."
The app, which was not named by the researchers for security reasons, asks users' permission to intercept outgoing calls and record audio before it is installed. Once downloaded, all calls the user makes will be logged on the phone's memory – which can potentially be accessed by the app's makers. The sound is filed in a folder called shangzhou/callrecord, suggesting that its author is Chinese.
Venkatesan added: "As it is already widely acknowledged that this year is the year of mobile malware, we advise smartphone users to be more logical and exercise the basic security principles while surfing and installing any applications."
Only last month security experts warned over a new strain of the Zeus virus – known to be one of the most pernicious on the internet and which targets login details for banks – that specifically targeted Android smartphones.
Almost 52m Android smartphones were shipped worldwide in the second quarter of this year – almost a fivefold increase year-on-year – according to market researchers Canalys. The huge increase is attributed to the large number of manufacturers, including HTC, Samsung and Motorola, now making handsets using Google's software.
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