PowerOffHijack spies on Android, even when devices are off

Newly discovered Android malware has surfaced that could spy on users' actions even when their device appears to be switched off.

PowerOffHijack was discovered by AVG, and is thought to have spread through Chinese app stores onto 10,000 devices.

The malicious software will only work on rooted devices running Android KitKat or below and takes effect when a user activates the hardware power switch to turn off their device.

The company explained the malware attacks a device when you request it to shut down: "First, it applies for the root permission. Second, after root permission is acquired, the malware will inject the system_server process and hook themWindowManagerFuncs object.

"Third, after the hook, when you press the power button, a fake dialog will pop up. And if you select power off option, it will display a fake shut down animation, leaving the power on but the screen off. Last, in order to make your mobile look like [it's] really off, some system broadcast services also need to be hooked."

Although the device appears to be switched off, it can operate independently, making calls, taking photos and sending data, often accessing the user's personal data too.

AVG said Android users should remove their batteries to switch off their devices, if they're concerned it may be infected, or install AVG's mobile antivirus product that can detect if malware is running.

Last year the Selfmite worm was uncovered that, like PowerOffHijack, could control devices without the user knowing, sending out SMS messages and - in some cases - extracted money from Android users.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.