A new Android Trojan program that poses as an SMS management application is sending text messages to predefined premium rate numbers in Europe and Canada, according to security researchers from Kaspersky Lab.
Credit-stealing Trojans that send SMS messages or make calls to premium rate numbers were first designed for Nokia's Symbian and Java-powered mobile OSes and have existed for years in countries like China or Russia.
However, the rapid adoption rate of Android devices and the openness of Google's mobile platform has motivated malware writers to look for new victims in the smartphone market.
Until earlier this year, the vast majority of Android Trojans found in the wild targeted Chinese and Russian users mainly because installing apps from unofficial sources is very common in these countries. However, according to Kaspersky Lab senior malware analyst Denis Maslennikov, Android malware writers have shifted their attention toward the international market in recent months.
The new Android Trojan found by Kaspersky is dubbed Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Foncy and, judging by various online reports from victims, it appeared sometime in September. The piece of malware is advertised as an application for monitoring SMS messages and is distributed via a file hosting websites, Maslennikov said.
Once installed on a device, the fake app sends four text messages to predefined premium rate numbers in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, Spain, the UK and Canada, depending on the country corresponding to the SIM card.
When analysing the Trojan, Kaspersky's experts determined that the code responsible for sending unauthorised text messages in Canada is broken. However, the malware's authors might have fixed this in newer versions.
"Unfortunately, today SMS Trojans are one the easiest ways for cybercriminals to make easy money fast," Maslennikov said. "Malicious use of premium rate SMS services is spreading around the world, and I'm pretty sure it's not going to stop any time soon," he added.
Despite incidents like these and numerous reports from security companies that claim that the number of Android Trojans is increasing rapidly, not everyone is convinced that the popular mobile OS has a malware problem.
A week ago, Google's open source manager, Chris DiBona, accused antivirus vendors of preying on people's fears to sell unnecessary security software for Android.
Security experts disagreed with DiBona's assessment and said that even though Android Trojans haven't displayed self-replicating abilities so far, the fact that they were found on the official Android Market on several occasions makes them a real threat.