Android Hackers Polishing Skills in Russia

Antone Gonsalves May 18, 2012
Android Hackers Polishing Skills in Russia
Sophos says they're starting in Russia, but will expand with success

The malware business growing around Google Android -- now the leading smartphone operating system -- is still in its infancy. Today, many of the apps built to steal money from Android users originate from Russia and China, so criminal gangs there have become cyber-trailblazers.

Sophos and Symantec on Wednesday released their latest Android malware discoveries written in Russian. While the language narrows the number of potential victims, the social-engineering tactics used to get Android users to install the malware is universal. The gang tracked by Sophos is using fake antivirus scanners, while Symantec is tracking cybercriminals using mobile websites to offer bogus versions of popular games.

Sophos says the criminals are like other entrepreneurs launching startups. They're starting in Russia, but have far greater ambitions. "I don't think we can say that they're necessarily using it as a testing ground -- think of it more as a local business that as it grows may gain multinational ambitions," Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said in an email interview on Wednesday.

While criminals today are writing consumer-focused apps, it's only a matter of time before the hackers go after corporate data, particularly if the number of people accessing employers' networks with personal devices continue to grow, experts say. Android is the leading smartphone OS.