How your iPhone could be turned into a spy phone

Smartphones like the iPhone could be increasingly vulnerable to hackers as they become more like computers, according to experts...

Smartphones could easily become spy phones, with hackers able to eavesdrop on your conversations, researchers have warned.

The handsets could be hijacked using malware as they steadily become as advanced as computers, say experts. Malware, short for malicious software, is software designed to infiltrate a computer system without the owner’s informed consent.

Software known as a ‘rootkit’ could let hackers turn on tracking GPS, drain the battery or even send confidential data, all without the owner’s knowledge. Rootkits mask their own existence on the computer, and can be installed via e-mails that trick users into opening attachments.

‘Smartphones are essentially becoming regular computers,’ said Vinod Ganapathy at Rutgers University in New Jersey. ‘They run the same class of operating systems as desktop and laptop computers, so they are just as vulnerable to attack.’

‘What we’re doing today is raising a warning flag,’ said fellow researcher Liviu Iftode. ‘We’re showing that people with general computer proficiency can create rootkit malware for smartphones. The next step is to work on defences,’ he added.

However, it is much harder to slip rootkits into smartphones, which tend to have strict rules on non-approved code being installed, say security experts. ‘The mobile phone malware threat is growing but it’s a tiny raindrop in a thunderstorm compared to regular attacks that strike Windows computers,’ said Graham Cluley of security company Sophos.

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