Bugnets: More Than Backyard Pests

Meetings with friends or clients. Private phone conversations. New business presentations. Financial transactions. Personal/family interactions. All items that we, as citizens of the United States, assume are private interactions, protected, and respected, by others.

Imagine you’re wrestling with a business decision; you were offered a position with one of your company’s competitors, and due to the nature of work, all negotiations have been conducted privately. After a meeting with the competing company, your sent a message by phone call, email, or text that threatens to expose your dealings unless you pay for silence. Or, how about a personal issue between you and your doctor that you’d prefer to keep from family and friends? Family problems. Financial position. All areas personal to you that may go public unless payment is rendered.

Our cellular phones are items we consider private; much like going through a woman’s purse, picking up someone else’s mobile phone and reading texts, emails, or other similar information is an invasion of privacy. However, cell phones, according to PC World, are “excellent surveillance devices for remote snoops.”

Bugnets, or botnets, are software programs (robots)  that run automatically and autonomously. Botnets aren’t malicious by themselves, but are associated with viruses an malware due to hacker’s use of the botnets as distribution vehicles.

Mobile phone malware and viruses aren’t new, and they’re not prolific in existence. The cell phone race has changed this trend, mainly due to the the successful sales relating to iPhone and Android operating platforms. While mobile malware is scarce, hackers are beginning to write programs that exploit these new O/S introductions.

To thwart laptop theft, software programs are currently available for both PC and Mac that contain features that activate webcams or microphones in an effort to learn where the stolen  computers are located. Hackers can write similar code for cell phones, allowing unwanted parties to activate cell phone cameras/microphones to view/listen to cell phone calls, text messages, location, etc.

Rutgers University researchers successfully created cell phone programs buried deeply within the phone operating system that could disable the cell’s battery, activate the phone’s GPS, listen to voice messages and read text messages. Due to the way these programs are written, they may go undetected for long periods (the software exploits rootkit files which, until recently, wasn’t scanned on computers, let alone phones).  PC World reported that, “The simplest rootkit, which targets a smartphone’s battery, would need only to enable Bluetooth or the phone’s GPS function to drain the power–and it could do so without your even realizing it.”

Remote GPS access is especially dangerous because it allows remote hackers to know your location at all times. Even more harmful: Real-time text and voice monitoring; whenever you receive a text or call, so does the criminal.  Although Apple claims that their tight application control policy keeps the iPhone safe, a security provider was able to access iPhone’s contact, image, and text files, as well as the phone’s GPS data.

The Rutgers team wrote that, “the pervasive nature of smart phones and a large, unsophisticated user base also make smart phones particularly attractive to attackers.”

Consensus among security companies is to avoid downloads and install security programs on your phone.  Cell phone protection can be downloaded from the same companies that provide computer software programs (Norton, McAfee, and others).

Call U-Spy Store if you have any questions on cell phone security, electronic counter-measures, or think your cell phone has been compromised.

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