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Malware can be enabled by sound, light, vibration, reveals latest research report

A new information finding has said that spread of certain types of malware may be triggered by specific lighting, music, vibrations or magnetic fields. Non-internet based cellular phone malware, the name given to it is a class of malware that may lay dormant for long under hostile conditions and obtain activated by non-internet based environmental factors under favorable environment.

malware 400x265 Malware might be enabled by sound, light, vibration, reveals latest research report

Malware spread by sound, light and vibrations

The findings by researchers with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) are actually published inside a paper titled Sensing-Enabled Channels for Hard-to-Detect Command and Control of Mobile Devices. The paper examines how malware on mobile devices could be activated and controlled via sound, light, magnetic fields, and vibration.

Until now, traditional ways of controlling malware relied on network-based channels, such as a TCP/IP based channel, easily detected and blocked by firewalls and antimalware products. The new approach to malware spreading do by the UAB researchers have posed a new challenge for cyber security experts.

The report in their introduction states,

The mobile phones have become both “smart” along with ubiquitous within the recent years. Today’s mobile phones, including smart phones or tablets, have a multitude of sensors, enabling the crooks to detect their location, and study the characteristics with their users and also the surrounding environment. These rich capabilities have enabled many interesting applications and immense possibilities for ordinary users. However, with the same time, they have opened up the doorway towards new generation of mobile malware that will exploit the on-board sensors for malicious purposes.

The team of researchers including Ragib Hasan, Nitesh Saxena, Tzipora Halevi, Shams Zawoad and Dustin Rinehart convinced others by building a proof-of-concept Android app to demonstrate their ideas.

The researchers placed their malware, designed to remain dormant until activated by certain signals, with an Android phone. They then activated the malware inside a busy hallway using music originating from a source 55 feet away. They also successfully activated the malware using music videos, lighting coming from a television and also an overhead light, magnetic fields, and vibrations from the subwoofer.

Source - Symantec.

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