Remote repair for infected phones in development

Share this article:
In response to the growing threat of mobile malware, researchers at Georgia Tech are planning to study mobile device security and ultimately hope to devise a way to remotely repair infected devices.

“Today, there haven't been widespread attacks, but we are seeing attackers starting to pay attention to mobile devices and we expect that that's only going to be increasing,” Jonathon Giffin, an assistant computer science professor, told on Tuesday.

Giffin and fellow assistant professor Patrick Traynor will lead a research study into cyberattacks within cellular networks, to be funded by a three-year, $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The researchers and a team of graduate students plan to build a cellular network test bed on campus to simulate how cellular devices communicate, Giffin said. Subsequently, they plan to study how attacks against mobile devices operate inside the test bed.

“We do hope that this is a test bed that will be useful to others who would like to do research into cellular security as well,” Giffin said.

The researchers also plan to investigate whether service providers, such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless, are capable of detecting infected devices in their networks, he said. Infected devices often send a high volume of traffic to a known malicious server or generate a high volume of text messages. So, service providers should be able to locate an infected device by monitoring network traffic patterns for anomalies..

“One of the hallmarks of our design is to use the network itself to identify attacks,” Giffin said.

Ultimately, the researchers want to develop a remote repair method that would enable service providers to clean malicious code off an infected device without the device having to be brought into a service center, Giffin said. The remote repair solution might be similar to remote wipe technologies that are used today to clear all the data off a mobile device that has gone missing.

Traynor has contacted a number of major carriers about the project and there is “a sense of excitement all around,” he said. “We need to develop solutions today so we are ready when these widespread attacks occur.”

When contacted by on Tuesday, a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman the company will await the outcome of the research before commenting. A spokesperson at AT&T could not be reached.

The hacker community clearly is ramping up efforts to study mobile devices.

This week, it was reported that a prank worm is circulating over jailbroken iPhones in Australia. In addition, late last month, a proof-of-concept (PoC) application was released that enables an attacker to remotely activate a BlackBerry microphone and listen in on surrounding sounds and conversations.

Share this article:
You must be a registered member of SC Magazine to post a comment.

Next Article in News

Sign up to our newsletters

More in News

Community Health Systems faces lawsuit related to data breach

The suit claims the hospital operator failed to meet security standards to protect the personal information belonging to patients.

Norwegian oil companies targeted in string of attacks

More than 300 companies are being warned to check their systems after at least 50 oil companies confirmed that their systems were attacked.

Possible payment card breach at Dairy Queen stores

Several financial institutions are reporting payment card fraud activity on credit and debit cards used at various Dairy Queen stores around the country, according to Brian Krebs.