malware

Microsoft, like most companies who run an app store, on occasion has problems with fake or malicious apps. You know, the ones that purport to be official, but charge you money upfront without a trial, something even more egregious for already free services.

I have seen a lot of teeth gnashing over this and lots of "look at THIS example!" posts. Even Microsoft has recently chimed in to say they are going to be doing more. But you play a role too.

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Another day, another apocalyptic prognostication of computer security doom, this time focusing on the omnipresent USB connection. It's called 'BadUSB', and it's a malware proof-of-concept created by security researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell that exploits a flaw in and resides in the firmware that controls the basic function of USB devices. The researchers claim that it's not a problem that can be patched, saying that they're "exploiting the very way that USB is designed," but in the end all they've done is highlight that you shouldn't go around plugging USB drives, devices, or whatnot that you don't trust into your computer.

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Microsoft has publicly announced a malware crackdown targeting selected domains hosted through the DNS service No-IP. The company is continuing its war against the spread of malware online, but it seems as though innocent web users have been affected by the shut down. Microsoft received the go-ahead from a Nevada court to redirect traffic on targeted domains to stop the NJrat and Jenxcus botnets. These botnets relied on the No-IP framework to remain online and be constantly connected to the internet.

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Details are murky but according to the site Naked Security, a young “ethical hacker" named Shantanu Gawde has created the world’s first Windows Phone 8 malware. The program can reportedly “…steal contacts, upload pictures and steal private data of users, gain access to text messages etc." and details about the exploit will be revealed at the Malcon security conference in New Delhi, India, later in November.

Gawde is evidently a well-known computer prodigy, being the world's youngest Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD) at age 16. What is more impressive is that he earned that designation when he was aged 7. Microsoft has been made aware of the presentation but not the details and are promising action upon any weaknesses found, should they be revealed as legitimate concerns.

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While there is a lot to look forward to with Windows Phone 8, some of the changes may not be as noticeable but no less important. Windows Phone 8 will have a number of significant changes under the hood to bolster the security of the platform.

Windows Phone 8 will have device encryption throughout the entire device including the OS and its applications. Designed along the same lines as Windows 7 PCs, encryption kicks in as soon as you power up the device. This system, based off of Bitlocker (but adapted for Windows Phone) was something first reported on back in February as an early rumor.

BitLocker is a logical volume encryption system that is present in Windows 7 and will be present in Windows 8.  BitLocker is designed to protect data by providing encryption for entire volumes or drives within a computer to protect the integrity of a trusted boot path.  The main difference between the PC version of encryption and what we will see on Windows Phone 8 is that the encryption keys are not manageable on our Windows Phone as they are on desktops or laptops.

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Security firm CrowdStrike has identified a vulnerability that could allow attackers to seize complete control over a smartphone.  The hole could allow an attacker to gain access via Webkit-based browsers, which makes up the bulk of mobile web browsers.  The good news for Windows Phone users is that they are in the clear because Microsoft designed Internet Explorer themselves, opting not to use the Webkit platform.

George Kurtz, CEO of CrowdStrike, has tested this theory and has confirmed that Windows Phone, unlike iOS, Android and Blackberry, is immune to this threat.  Kurtz has not revealed the details of the vulnerability, but will be holding a demonstration tomorrow at a TSA conference.  For the time being, there is little that users can do to protect themselves.  Any fixes must come from the OS developers first, and then get pushed out to consumers.

Source: Zunited

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Following what looks to be a massive adware outbreak on the Android marketplace, Microsoft's Ben Rudolph is looking to ease the pain of 20 affected users by giving them free Windows phones.  Rudolph asked what may be 5 million victims to share their stories via Twitter today, in hopes that their "Droidrage" might be cured.  Those who have the best stories (or worst, depending on how you look at it), will receive one of the 20 devices.  It's not clear what kind of phone winners will receive, but hey, a free WP7 phone is a free WP7 phone!

Microsoft has been pretty keen on these light-hearted promotions, pitting Windows Phone up against other mobile operating systems.  This is the second time that Android users have received such an offer, the first being back in December, when a smaller malware outbreak occurred.  And at CES, Ben Rudolph was challenging attendees to speed tests in the "Smoked by Windows Phone," which may even become a traveling affair.

Source: Ben Rudolph (Twitter)

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Microsoft is doing a good job when it comes to light promotion with Brandon Watson offering well known names a free Windows Phone to try out. Now Ben Rudolph is giving away 5 free Windows Phones to unhappy Android owners who can provide the best (or worst) experience story. Android has suffered from Malware and other issues, which Microsoft will not be allowing the platform to get off lightly without attempting to attract unhappy consumers.

Source: Twitter (@BenThePCGuy), via: MobilityDigest, thanks thenet for the tip!

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Yesterday, the Android market had 21 applications pulled by Google and force-removed from users' devices due to them containing an exploit called 'rageagainstthecage'. And while Google successfully and quickly pulled the software from the market and from devices ("kill switch"), those 21 apps were downloaded over 50,000 times (bigger market, bigger target).

It was bound to happen. We've been bombarded for years about the threat of computer viruses, exploits, Trojans, etc. and if there was ever a viable target today, Android would be it. It has an open market (no approval processes), huge market share and one heck of a hacker community. How serious is the exploit? Our sister site Android Central says:

rageagainstthecage...opens the door for the app to do anything with your data -- like send it to a remote server. Of course with root it can do much worse as well.

If you installed any of these applications, they should have been pulled off your phone, but that's not enough. You need to do a full system wipe and reset your phone completely, the data wipe and reset from settings may not be enough. This means ODIN, RUU's, .sbf files or a trip to your carrier store if this is beyond your capabilities.

Mind you, all 21 apps were uploaded by one person. Going further, Android Police, who originally broke the story says

...it steals nearly everything it can: product ID, model, partner (provider?), language, country, and userID. But that’s all child’s play; the true pièce de résistance is that it has the ability to download more code. In other words, there’s no way to know what the app does after it’s installed, and the possibilities are nearly endless.

Egads. While we hope nothing too nefarious has happened, it goes to show that having a regulated Marketplace, like Windows Phone, where the code is checked for such things can be quite valuable when compared to what Android users are now facing. Will this become a regular occurrence? What will Google do to address the problem? It will be interesting to see in the next couple of days the fallout from this breach.

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If you've followed WMExperts for awhile, you've probably noticed that we've glanced askance at anti-virus or other malware solutions for Windows Mobile.  The bottom line is that the threat doesn't seem big enough to warrant the performance hit that you'd get by running anti-virus on your smartphone.  In fact, so far as we know, there aren't any serious viruses or other threats out there at all right now.  Nobody here runs anti-virus and nobody here recommends that you do either.

Of course, making such a blanket statement isn't so cut-and-dried -- it's always possible that something nasty could crop up and it's legitimate to be worried about it.  We just received an email from David in this vein.  Find it and our answer, after the break!

(Have a question for WMExperts?  We've added a new "Ask WMExperts" category to our contact form - that's the place to do it!)

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Here we go again, McAfee has released a white paper (PDF link) telling the world that, yes Virginia, you can write malware for Windows Mobile. This seems to happen every few months when this anti-virus company or that doesn't feel it's getting enough attention. Of particular note to McAfee researchers is Windows Mobile's SMS API (which enables cool software like Mobile Secretary's SMS auto-reply and forward), which they say could allow ne'er do wells to grab your personal info via text.

Anyhow, before you run for the hills, note that an exploit hasn't been released.

While mobile malware attacks have been scarce thus far, and some experts -- including F-Secure wireless security guru Mikko Hypponen -- have predicted that such threats will likely never rival widespread nature of today's desktop viruses, McAfee maintains that as smartphones takeoff more exploit code will be written to target the machines.

Read: InfoWorld

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Symantec Releases Antivirus for WM5

I really, really, really don't want to ever have to install antivirus software on a smartphone. For what little risk is out there right now, it's absolutely not worth the program memory for me to do it. If you're the paranoid type, however, feel free to toss money at Mobile AntiVirus. I won't call you a sucker -- to your face.

Symantec Corp. has announced its Mobile AntiVirus 4.0 for Windows Mobile, developed to work on Pocket PCs and smartphones running on the Windows Mobile 5.0 platform. The software automatically protects mobile devices from threats transmitted via e-mail and multimedia messaging service (MMS), downloaded from memory cards, the cellular network and Wi-Fi, transmitted by Bluetooth or beamed over infrared connections.

Read: Symantec releases Mobile AntiVirus 4.0 for Windows Mobile

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Company find Security Flaws in WM5

Stop the presses: A Microsoft software product has been found to have security flaws.

Ok, cheap shot. And really, WM5 hasn't, to my knowledge, had any sort of catastrophic attack on it yet. Even this is just a report of a threat, not an actual attack (a report of a threat, one should note, from a company that wants to sell you software to protect you). Still, MS is on the case and, really, it should just be a matter of time before we really have to starting thinking about malware on our smartphones.

Which amuses me, my two main platforms (Windows Mobile and Mac) are both pretty much malware-free. So I suppose the same thing people argue about WRT Macs could be applied to WM5 - is it security through obscurity? Good secure software?

Trend Micro has told Microsoft about the problems and has not publicly shared the vulnerability details. "The sky isn't falling. Nobody out there is aware of this," Thiemann said. The company doesn't expect any imminent attacks exploiting the problems, he said.

Read: Windows Mobile flaws could crash phones - Security - News - ZDNet Asia

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Well that's bad news: The Register is reporting that it's possible to send a malicious MMS to Windows Mobile phones (at least Pocket PC 2003 and Smartphone 2003 phones) that could possibly infect them with malicious code. More likely it would just crash the phone (thank god for small favors), though, as it's apparently wicked-tough to implement.

All in all, we've had a remarkably long honeymoon when it comes to security on mobile devices. Hopefully it's not over yet.

Security researchers have released proof-of-concept code that exploits vulnerabilities in MMS implementations in mobile phones running mobile versions of Windows.
[...]Even in devices confirmed as vulnerable the attacker needs to know the correct memory slot where the MMS processing code is executing, so exploitation is far from easy. Malicious MMS message will most likely only crash a device rather than infecting it, reports anti-virus firm F-Secure.

Read: How to crash a Windows mobile using MMS | The Register

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