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Bank scam malware hits Android phones

Irene Tham on 02 Dec 2015

The Straits Times


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MALICIOUS software targeting Android smartphones has for the first time been reported to cause financial losses to mobile banking users in Singapore.


The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) yesterday issued a warning against the malicious program, hidden in a pop-up window that prompts users to update their WhatsApp messaging software.


Some 50 mobile customers of major retail banks here reported losses of up to "several thousand dollars" after clicking on the dubious link, prompting ABS to issue the warning.


"ABS would like to remind mobile banking customers that smartphones are as susceptible to malware as desktop computers or laptops," said Ong-Ang Ai Boon, director of ABS.


"Now, criminals have turned to targeting Android phone users... as banks are pushing out more banking apps for user convenience."


The dubious pop-up window is believed to have appeared after mobile phone users visited websites infected with malware. 


It prompts unsuspecting users to click on an embedded link to update their WhatsApp software or battery management module.


People who clicked on the link were asked to enter their credit card details to complete the software upgrade. After doing so, users were greeted with the Android green robot logo with the message: "System update in progress..."


It is at this point that cyber criminals take control of the phone, using the credit card details entered and one-time passwords received via SMS for making fraudulent online transactions.


Some users have lost several thousand dollars from online transactions which appear to originate in Eastern Europe, according to Mrs Ong-Ang. Items purchased include airline tickets.


Bank refunds may be made on a case-by-case basis, but customers must prove that they took steps to protect their banking credentials.


As a precaution, consumers should not use their infected phones for mobile banking. Users may need to restore their phones to factory settings to remove the malware.


Users also should not download apps from dubious sources as malware can hide in these apps, said Lim Chin Keng, the Asia-Pacific director of security solutions at security software maker F5 Networks.


"The malware is able to detect banking activities, for instance, and launch a fake website to trick users into entering their banking credentials," he said.


Consumers are also advised to report any suspicious activities to their banks so transactions on compromised credit cards can be blocked. Some of the victims have made a police report.


Fraudulent online transactions have risen sharply over the past three years - from 238 reported cases in 2012 to 510 cases in 2013, and 1,659 cases last year.


Separately, security firm Norton's recently released online survey of more than 1,000 people here showed that Singaporeans lost over half a million dollars to cybercrime in the past year.


Source: My Paper © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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