Android malware worms its way into devices via texts

Mobile malware

Android devices are being targetted by a strain of malware spreading through text messages.

Dubbed Selfmite, it was detected by IT security researcher Denis Maslennikov. The worm is able to propagate via SMS. Potential victims receive the following SMS message containing a URL pointing to the Selfmite worm: Dear [NAME], Look the Self-time,******.

On clicking the link, the user is redirected to another link where they are then prompted to download and install an APK file called "The Self-timer" which then appears on a user's device.

If the victim launches it, the malware immediately reads the device's contact book, looking for 20 contacts to send the same message to automatically.

IT security firm AdaptiveMobile has already detected infected devices on operator networks in North America, where the worm was first discovered. It said that activity has also been recorded from a dozen countries worldwide.

"We were able to detect this infection early, limiting the harm done by Selfmite. At the moment North America seems to be the most targeted territory," said Maslennikov.

"SMS worms for Android smartphones have previously been rare, but this and the recent Samsapo worm in Russia may indicate that cybercriminals are now starting to broaden their attacks on mobile phones to use different techniques that users may not be aware of," he added.

Once the worm sends out these messages, the user is invited to download and install Mobogenie which is a legitimate app for managing and installing Android apps.

"There is a monetisation aspect to this worm," said Maslennikov.

"To redirect users to the Mobogenie app, the Selfmite worm uses an advertising platform, therefore we believe that an unknown registered user of the advertising platform abused a legal service and attempted to increase the number of Mobogenie app installations using malicious software."

The firm has contacted Google and the malicious URL has now been put out of action.

"This should stop the worm author from profiting from the spread of Selfmite," said Maslennikov.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.