Security Experts:

"Fee-Deduction" Malware Targeting Android Devices Spotted in the Wild

NetQin Mobile today warned that it had discovered malware embedded in more than 20 Android applications circulating via various forums on the Internet which auto-dials phone numbers to incur high user fees. The infected mobile applications include QQ Doudizhu, Voice SMS, Drag Racing, Trader, Donkey Jump, Jungle Monkey and Gold Miner among others.

Fee-Deduction Malware for AndroidDubbed BaseBridge, NetQin says the Malware can be embedded in legitimate applications, and during the applications installation, the Malware prompts the user to upgrade. If the user chooses to upgrade, the Malware is installed on the Android device under the name "com.android.battery". Then, another prompt would pop up to ask the user to restart the app to run it, and the Malware is formally activated upon restart.

Upon activation, the malware can activate three malicious services -- AdSmsService, BridgeProvider and PhoneService, to communicate with a control server, from which it will download a configuration file to read related information and dial calls or send out SMS messages, incurring fees for users. Meanwhile, the malware also blocks messages from the mobile carrier to prevent users from getting fee consumption updates in time so that all malicious activities are undertaken stealthily without the user's knowledge or consent. The Malware may also insert messages to the inbox of a mobile device at a designated time.

When unlocking the screen of an infected device on which 360 Safeguard is installed, the Malware would cause a false message to appear, stating that the 360 Safeguard is terminated due to an error/exception while the 360 Safeguard is actually running normally.

According to NetQin, "auto dialing" generally refers to when malware that on an infected mobile device dials a number without the user's knowledge. Malware often control mobile devices, using them to dial a designated number that may incur high fees in the process. NetQin said this is the first time an auto-dialing malware that causes fee deduction has spotted on Android devices, although similar software has been discovered on Symbian devices.

This is another outbreak of Android malware after DroidDream that forced Google to remove more than 50 rogue applications from its Android Market earlier this year and use a "remote kill" function to remove malware from users devices remotely.

Threats targeting the fast growing smartphone and tablet markets top the list of cyber concerns in 2011. A report released by Juniper Networks earlier this month showed a significant rise in threats to mobile devices, and highlighted a record number of mobile security threats, including a 400 percent increase in malware targeting the Android operating system.