Cyber-thieves are using popular free games as a way to hijack phones and turn them into spam forwarding devices. Free games such as Angry Birds Space and Need for Speed Most Wanted are among others used in the attack. These games, once installed, can become undetectable to the user as the icon does not appear on the main screen. The virus also edits the outgoing mail server on the android to hide the spam messages from the user that have been sent.
The virus contacts a central server and begins sending spam messages to targeted phone numbers. “This sort of attack changes the economics of SMS spam, as the spammer no longer has to pay for the messages that are sent,” stated Andrew Conway, analyst at Cloudmark. Security firms have said that at present the number of infected devices remains low, however an increase in the activity of the virus is apparent with 500,000 junk texts sent per day via android devices, mainly in the US.
Android owners are being urged to be cautious of any suspicious text messages they receive which advertise free offers of apps that are usually paid for. Search giants Google are attempting to tackle the virus by imposing guidelines all developers must adhere to if they wish to list on the Google Play store. This measure includes a ban on using icons that are “confusingly similar” to that of existing products listed. Google have reassured android users they are “constantly striving to make improvements” and that the new measures will ban apps that “disclose personal information without authorization”.