Smartphones were under attack for quite some time now. We have already told you about the Chinese cellphone virus that turned your device into a zombie, as well as the ‘Boonana ’ Trojan for Android users. It finally looked like basic devices, or ‘featurephones’ if you will, were no longer the target. Well, not anymore.
Two researchers from the Technische Universitaet of Berlin have figured out a way to send malicious text messages via SMS and can force the cell phones to shut down. Collin Mulliner and Nico Golde, from the Security in Telecommunications department have taken advantage of the SMS protocol, which has the ability to transmit small programs called binaries. These binaries are sent out by network operators to remotely change the settings of the cellphones. Once these messages are received by the cellphone, it has the ability to shut down the cellphone as well as knock it off the mobile network.
The two researchers were able to create malicious SMS messages for all the popular cellphone brands on the market today. In a comment given to the Technology Review, the researchers said “The only people who can defend against this attack are the network operators, to prevent problems; operators would have to update the firmware on existing phones or else filter out potentially disruptive SMS messages traveling across their networks. The latter approach would be difficult, he says, because filtering software, generally used to catch spam, is not optimized to catch binaries.”
Mr. Mulliner also stated that anyone with a limited amount of resources could launch an attack on the devices. There are a lot of websites on the internet which send out bulk messages to phones for a small fee or even for free.
While the so called SMS-o-Death will not permanently kill your phone or steal your date, it will still cause a lot of people headaches when their phone shuts down or gets kicked off the cellular network.