With the invention of Siri and its Android equivalents, smart phone users have become used to the idea of their phone listening to their every command.
One thing that users may not have expected, however, is their phone might also be listening to the conversations they don’t want anyone to hear.
Security researchers at mobile security company Lookout have announced that more than 1000 Android apps may contain a new type of spyware called SonicSpy.
Some of the apps were even available in the Google Play Store which is Android’s official marketplace. The malware was discovered in Google Play and has since been connected to an actor operating out of Iraq.
Michael Flossman, lead of Security Research Services Tech, said on Lookout’s blog that SonicSpy has the ability to, “silently record audio, take photos with the camera, make outbound calls, send text messages to attacker-specified numbers and retrieve call logs, contracts and information about Wi-Fi access points”.
“In fact, the malware has the ability to respond to over 73 different remote commands, meaning attackers can manipulate a victim's device from afar through a command and control server,” Flossman said on the blog.
For an app to be marketed within the Google Play Store it has to go through a variety of security measures which were implemented by Google. But, a select few passed the stringent test.
A recent example of an app containing the virus is called Soniac, which was marketed as a messaging app. Google Play Store estimated that no more than 5,000 people installed the app.
Two other examples of malware contained in similar messaging apps, which are now both inactive, are Hulk Messenger and Troy Chat.
The developer, iraqwebservice, has since taken down the apps or they have been removed from the marketplace.
There are currently 1.4 billion Android users worldwide.