Eight Malicious Mobile Viruses that Screwed Up Our Phones

By Spencer Hart on at

When I say computer virus to you, I bet you think about the annoying amount of malicious software that was written for Windows XP back in the day. But it's a post-PC world now, and we don't need to worry about that sort of thing any more, right?

Wrong! There's a whole history of dodgy code infecting mobile devices around the world – in fact it's been 10 years exactly since the mobile phone become "virus able". Here's a few of the most notorious landmarks from there…

1.) Cabir

Let's start off with one of the most well-known mobile viruses, despite never being let loose on the unsuspecting public. It was developed in 2004 and first detected exactly 10 years ago today, on the 23 February 2005. It displays a message about 'Caribe', and infects mobile phones running Symbian OS (y'know - Nokia's old operating system of choice), but doesn't directly damage the phone. Instead, it attempts to spread from phone-to-phone via Bluetooth, this greatly reduces the device's battery life.

It's believed the worm was developed by a group named '29A', who developed it as a 'proof of concept'. The worm replicated on Series 60 Symbian, so if you have a 10-year-old Nokia that has terrible battery life, firstly, what actually the hell? Secondly, get a new phone! [Image credit: Mobile Review]

2.) Red Bunny Trojan

HongTouTou, also known as the Red Bunny Trojan, is a virus that masks itself as popular Android apps. The trojan made its debut around five years ago, targeting Chinese-language users.

It works in the background unknown to the user, visiting web-pages with adverts – possibly driving up advertising revenue with falsely inflated clicks. Pretty smart, hey? If you've been browsing Chinese app markets and forums, you had better get your device checked out now.

3.) Gingermaster

Gingermaster exploits a hole in Android Gingerbread (2.3) and opens root access without the user's permission. It then creates a service that steals a user's ID, SIM number, phone number, IMEI, IMSI, screen resolution and local time, from infected terminals.

One infected application promises a 'beauty of the day' – pictures of women such as Lady Gaga delivered to your phone daily. Have these people not heard of Google image search? [Image Credit: Shutterstock]

4.) Ikee Worm

Some Australian iPhone users who defy Apple's walled-garden and jailbreak their devices, might find themselves infected by the first worm written for iPhone. The worm changes phone wallpapers to an image of '80s singer (and internet phenomenon) Rick Astley, with "ikee is never going to give you up" written across it. The worm then goes on to search for other phones to infect.

The virus was thought to have been written as an experiment, and buried away in the code is: "People are stupid, and this is to prove it so RTFM its not that hard guys but hey who cares its only your bank details at stake." Everybody loves a good Rickroll. [Image Credit: Geeky Gadgets]

5.) CommWarrior

Another one for Nokia's Symbian OS Series 60 owners – CommWarrior is an annoying beast. The malicious code will factory-reset the user's phone on the 14th of every month.

It was the first known mobile malware that could spread via MMS, leading experts to worry about the potential pandemic nature of this virus. Luckily no one uses Symbian any more so it's not a world-stopping problem.

6.) Skulls

Skulls is a really nasty one: it arrives on the phone in the form of an app, then promptly disables programs, applications, phonebook, SMS, MMS and the MP3 player.

It also changes all of the application logos to little skull and cross bones – perfect if you're a goth or fan of Pirates of the Caribbean. [Image Credit: TechRadar]

7.) CardTrap

CardTrap was the first known mobile virus to attempt a cross-platform infection. It has the ability to jump from phone to a target's computer. It renders the phone useless by corrupting the browser, phone book and other apps. It also unloads installers for our friends Skulls, CommWarrior and Cabir on to the device. Cheers!

8.) TapSnake

TapSnake was first spotted in 2010, on the face of things it resembles a harmless Snake clone on the Android App Store, but under the surface it tracks a user's GPS coordinates every 15 minutes, and uploads them to a server. The coordinates can be viewed from an premium app named Spy GPS installed on another phone.

OK, so that's more malicious software for jealous partners or James Bond wannabes than a virus. Still, annoying as hell, and it's no surprise that Google quickly pulled it from the Play Store.

[Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock]