This latest ransom ware attack is a wake-up call to computer scientists fighting malicious code. But as Robbie Harris reports it’s just one version of the growing cyber threat to our devices.
When the malware called, “Wannacrypt” infected windows users around the world, it wreaked havoc on large institutional servers. And like that pernicious code itself, its name too, soon morphed to the catchier moniker “Wanna Cry.’ But you should know there’s another cyber threat to a smaller device much closer to home that could also provoke tears. It’s malware on your phone, inside your apps that teams up with other apps to steal your data.
Gang Wang: Today’s malicious software are more stealthy. So they try to do things behind the scenes and they try to collaborate with each other so they can do things that a single app cannot do.”
Gang Wang who teaches Computer Science at Virginia Tech co-authored on a first-of-its-kind study that found out how the apps on Android phones trade information. Sometimes, it’s not even intentional, but it is a potential security threat and you may not even know is happening. That’s pretty much the opposite of how ransom ware works:
Gang Wang: Ransom ware does not want your data it wants your money. So that’s why they put a lock on your data so that they can get a ransom.”
But with smartphone malware says Wang, they do want your data, your location, contacts and your Internet access. The study looked only at apps for Android phones, which means other makers may have the same problem. Wang says app security is like the Wild West right now with few regulations. So working with Google, they put together a list of apps that might present a security risk. The list is updated as fixes are made and new problem apps are found.