How smart phones can be hacked, hijacked and exploited without owner’s knowledge

Few smart phone users realize that the same characteristics that make these devices so useful can be hijacked and used against them. Recently, two researchers from Rutgers University, Vinod Ganapathy and Liviu Iftode, with support from the National Science Foundation tasked a group of graduate students with an intriguing challenge. Starting with the assumption that they had found a way to hack into a smart phone, the grad students were asked to take a smart phone platform commonly used by software developers and develop malicious applications that a user may not even notice. The team decided to inject software components known as rootkits into the phone’s operating system. Once the rootkits were in place, the researchers were able to hijack a smart phone by simply sending it a text message. This allowed them to do things like quietly turn on the device’s microphone, enabling them to hear what was going on in the room where the phone had been placed.

Another attack trained the phone to use its GPS capabilities to report the phone’s exact location without the user’s knowledge. By turning on various high-energy functions, the team was even able to rapidly drain the phone’s batteries, rendering it useless. The Rutgers team presented the results of their attempts to hack and hijack smart phones at the International Workshop on Mobile Computing Systems and Applications (HotMobile 2010). Ganapathy and Liviu haven’t been approached by the makers of popular smart phone devices, but hopefully their research will help keep these new devices safe and sound.
Source:-National Science Foundation

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