PoC mobile malware records swipes on touch screen smartphones

A security researcher has developed proof-of-concept malware capable of capturing screenshots and finger swipes on mobile devices, and is set to demonstrate his creation at the RSA Conference in San Francisco in February.

As users inexorably switch from computers to mobile phones and tablets for their online shopping and banking needs, malware developers will surely set their sights on creating financial malware adapted to the new platforms.

Neal Hindocha, senior security consultant for Trustwave, has proved that the feat can be done, but his proof-of-concept malware does not lend itself to industrial scale data collection.

You see, this “touchlogger” is capable of logging the coordinates of any swipe or touch, and of taking screen captures, but it can’t (yet) distinguish between general use and use for online payment and banking purposes.

Going through the swipe logs and screenshots to search for relevant information is a very time-consuming and labor-intensive task that’s difficult to automate, so using it against specific targets seems more logical and more efficient than infecting a huge number of devices.

Hindocha has managed to make the PoC code work on jailbroken iOS and rooted Android devices, but shared with Forbes that it’s possible get it to work on non-rooted Android devices as well – possibly by infecting the device when it’s plugged into a PC.

The malware might be aimed at capturing financial information, but since it records every touch, an attacker would also discover additional relevant information such as the user’s security code for unlocking the device, image and alpha-numeric passwords, etc.

Hindocha is not the first researcher who thought about testing ways to record swipes and keystrokes on soft keyboards used on touch screen smartphones. In 2011, Liang Cai and Hao Chen from University of California, Davis, demonstrated their work on an Android app that logged keystrokes using phone movements.

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