Thursday, October 16, 2008

Smartphones hackers’ weapons of choice?

Researchers Warn Of Mobiles As Zombie Computers

San Francisco: Some of the most vicious internet predators are hackers who infect thousands of PCs with special viruses and lash the machines together into “botnets” to pump out spam or attack other computers.

Now security researchers say cellphones, and not just PCs, are the next likely conscripts into the automated armies.

The mobile phone as zombie computer is one possibility envisioned by security researchers from Georgia Tech in a new report coming out on Wednesday.

The report identifies the growing power of cellphones to open a new avenue of attack for hackers. Of particular concern is that as cellphones get more computing power and better internet connections, hackers can capitalize on vulnerabilities in mobile-phone operating systems or web applications.

Botnets, or networks of infected or robot PCs, are the weapons of choice when it comes to spam and so-called “denial of service attacks,” in which computer servers are overwhelmed with internet traffic to shut them down. For example, botnets were used against Estonia’s government and financial websites in a devastating wave of attacks last year.

Botnets are so troubling because they have massive computing power and a seemingly endless supply of newly infected PCs to replace old ones that are wiped clean or taken offline. Millions of PC have fallen victim. The owners typically never know.

The Georgia Tech researchers say that if cellphones become absorbed in botnets, new types of moneymaking scams could be born. For example, infected phones could be programmed to call pay-per-minute 1-900 numbers or to buy ringtones from companies set up by the criminals.

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