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UAB Research Finds New Channels to Trigger Mobile Malware

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A representation of malware attacking a mobile device.

Researchers have used music videos, lighting from a TV, vibrations from a subwoofer, and magnetic fields to set trigger malware on mobile devices.

Credit: Silicon Angle

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) researchers have discovered new hard-to-detect methods for triggering mobile device malware that could eventually lead to targeted attacks launched by large groups of infected mobile devices in the same geographical area. These attacks could be triggered by music, lighting, or vibration.

The UAB researchers used music to set off malware hidden in mobile devices from 55 feet away in a crowded hallway. "We showed that these sensory channels can be used to send short messages that may eventually be used to trigger a mass-signal attack," says UAB professor Nitesh Saxena. "While traditional networking communication used to send such triggers can be detected relatively easily, there does not seem to be a good way to detect such covert channels currently."

The researchers also successfully activated malware, at various distances, using music videos, lighting from a TV, vibrations from a subwoofer, and magnetic fields.

"We need to create defenses before these attacks become widespread, so it is better that we find out these techniques first and stay one step ahead," says UAB researcher Shams Zawoad.

From UAB News
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Abstracts Copyright © 2013 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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