History Repeating Itself: BadNews

In class, Professor Ransbotham spoke of the SQL Slammer virus and how it overtook Microsoft database products around the world within a mere 30 minutes. He went on to discuss how virus creators and hackers focused on creating malware especially for Microsoft, because it made more economic sense given the large number of people and corporations that used Microsoft systems. Thus, Apple became more prominent as it developed the reputation of virtually never having virus issues. While the knowledge of viruses and technology itself has greatly improved, it seems as though history is repeating itself, this time, in the world of mobile operating systems and apps, specifically Google’s Android operating system, the main competitor to Apple’s iOS.

With the creation of smartphones, mobile devices practically became portable computers. Now, in the US, 78 percent of the adult population uses smartphones. Like Professor Ransbotham said, where there is money to be made, there will be hackers and “bad guys” to exploit it. With the growing use of smartphones and apps on smartphones, the “bad guys” are looking at a pretty penny, and they have found a way to get their hands on it: theScreen-Shot-2013-04-18-at-9.16.29-PM mobile malware rightly named BadNews. BadNews has infected numerous apps on the Google Play app store. The Android system allows apps with BadNews on it to be downloaded because the malware uses an advertising network, which delays its effects. Because no malware activity has taken place before a user downloads the app, app-vetting processes do not detect it. Once the installation is complete, BadNews collects the phone number and device ID and sends it to its control center server, which then tells BadNews to send text messages to phone numbers that charge higher rates through the infected phone and prompts users to purchase other infected or less popular apps. BadNews has inflected a total of 2 to 9 million Android mobile phones. While many of the effected apps are made for Russian users, some of the most popular apps are for English-speaking consumers.

Because app-vetting processes cannot detect malicious behavior that has not happened yet, constant app BadNewsMalwareLookoutscanning is necessary to protect smartphones. This is what the app Lookout does. The Lookout Mobile Security company was the first to notify Google about BadNews. Google responded by immediately taking down the 32 different apps that carried BadNews. Not only does the Lookout app protect against the threat of BadNews, but Lookout itself is also trying to shut down the command and control centers of BadNews located in Russia, Ukraine, and Germany.

Check out how Lookout works and download it today:

The real question is the impact this will have on the battle between Android smartphones and Apple’s iPhone. While Android users still outnumber iPhone users 67.7 million to 48.9 million respectively,

ImageApple has experienced a greater increase in users compared to Android, 19 million to 18.5 million in January. While Android smartphones sell at a cheaper price, raising its availability to more people, the iPhone has a more attractive group of users: younger consumers who frequently use more aspects of the smartphone such as social media apps and mobile shopping. So, how will the discovery of BadNews affect this trend?

While it may still be too soon to tell what the outcome of the BadNews virus will be, the possible severity of the consequences BadNews could create could lead to a great shift in favor of Apple’s iPhone as people opt for a safer app network. Although a majority of the infected apps have mostly affected Russian users, now that this virus has hit the media, who knows what other “bad guys” will take the idea and run with it. The way the smartphone industry responds to this new virus could help significantly shape the battle between Androids and iPhones. In class, we have commented on how Apple laptops dominate in personal use but Microsoft and HPs still remain prominent in businesses. However, with the growing concern for protection of big data collected by so many companies today to improve their services and maintain a competitive edge, people for business and personal use alike would not want to jeopardize monetary or privacy damage due to an infected app.  Although an iPhone is more expensive, there may be something to be said about making the necessary sacrifices today to avoid the potentially malicious charges of tomorrow due to unwanted malware. So, is history about to repeat itself? Will Android phones eventually follow the dwindling fate of PCs? What do you think?

For more information, check out the links below:

http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Blog/Android_vs_iOS_User_Differences_Every_Developer_Should_Know

http://www.businessinsider.com/us-smartphone-market-2012-9

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/mar/06/iphone-us-smartphones

https://blog.lookout.com/blog/2013/04/19/the-bearer-of-badnews-malware-google-play/

http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2013/04/19/a-new-kind-of-virus-for-the-mobile-age/

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3 thoughts on “History Repeating Itself: BadNews

  1. Like every technology, there is always someone somewhere trying to sabotage our effort to advance. Besides business intentions, I wonder what motivates these people to create such software like BadNews? Is it just to create mayhem and cost people money? I believe Android will not suffer the same fate as PC because of such app like Lookout Mobile Security. In addition, as we become more aware and more people become more technologically capable, anti-virus software is being develop faster than ever. BadNews has only infected 2-9million android, compare to the PC crisis when almost the whole world is infected!

  2. I too wonder how Android phone viruses will effect the phone market. Clearly, if these mobile phone viruses become a major issue, this might start a mass exodus away from Android towards Apple. However, this may not be as good for Apple as we would all expect. The reason there are currently no viruses for Apple computers/devices is not that their software is immune to viruses, but rather the PC market is much larger and thus yields a much higher return of investment (ROI) for the virus creators/cyber criminals. If more and more people switch over to the iPhone, this may make change the return of investment for writing viruses for iPhones, thus making them more subject to viruses because people will be willing to spend the time making them. Would Apple rather continue to trail Android in market share but not have to worry about their products getting viruses or lead the market and have to solve this problem? I’m not sure, but they don’t really have any say in the matter. Only time will tell how this will effect Apple.

  3. What an alarming development! The headache from dealing with computer viruses is nothing new, but the ability for these mobile device viruses to access private information is an unpleasant twist. Would you consider this issue to be a legitimate reason to increase the level of privacy regulation for mobile devices, perhaps to the level of what is implemented in the EU?

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