Non-removable Malware Hits Smartphones In Asia And Africa

Cyber security firm Lookout has identified a new malware 'DeathRing', a Chinese Trojan pre-installed on a number of smartphones most popular in Asian and African countries.

DeathRing In Action

The DeathRing malware masquerades as a ringtone app, but instead can download SMS and WAP content from its command and control server to the victim’s phone. Then it uses the malicious contents to perform monitoring, data stealing and so on.

For example, DeathRing might use SMS content to phish victim’s personal information by fake text messages requesting the desired data. It may also use WAP, or browser, content to prompt victims to download further APKs — concerning given that the malware authors could be tricking people into downloading further malware that extends the adversary’s reach into the victim’s device and data.

According to the researchers from Lookout, the malware is activated in two ways — both dependent on the victim’s use of the phone. First, the malware will activate if the phone is powered down and rebooted five times. On the fifth reboot, the malware starts. Second, the malicious service will start after the victim has been away and present at the device at least fifty times.

Which Phones Are Affected ?

The smartphones popular in Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Nigeria, Taiwan, and China are appeared to be affected by the DeathRing malware. They include:

  • Counterfeit Samsung GS4/Note II 
  • Various TECNO devices 
  • Gionee Gpad G1 
  • Gionee GN708W 
  • Gionee GN800 
  • Polytron Rocket S2350 
  • Hi-Tech Amaze Tab 
  • Karbonn TA-FONE A34/A37 
  • Jiayu G4S – Galaxy S4 Clone 
  • Haier H7 
  • No manufacturer specified i9502+ Samsung Clone

How To Stay Safe ?

Since these types of malwares are pre-installed, it is difficult to remove those malicious programs from the phone using antivirus programs. However, researchers recommends some tips to stay safe.

  • Be aware of the origins of the device you’re buying. 
  • Download a mobile security app like Lookout’s app that protects against malware as a first line of defense — if you are alerted to malware like this on the device, you may want to get a refund. 
  • Regularly check your phone bill for any curious charges.

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