Google takes down Android app that let hackers control your phone through SMS

android spyware works through text smartphone cellphone hacking frustration
An internet security company has published its findings on an Android app that contained spyware controlled via text messages. Researchers at Zscaler have determined an app suspiciously titled “System Update” gave attackers the ability to execute commands on a remote device and receive its location data. The app — which was just deleted on Google Play Store — had been available for the last three years, and was listed as having been downloaded anywhere from 1 million to 5 million times.

The reviews all indicate users had been installing System Update believing, unsurprisingly, that it would update the version of Android on their device. Instead, when opened for the first time, the app would display the standard system error message — “Unfortunately, System Update has stopped” — and remove itself from the app drawer.

This would activate the spyware, named SMSVova, and set things into motion. SMSVova fetches the user’s location data and begins reading text messages, looking for an SMS message that reads “get faq.” If another device texts “get faq” to the infected party, the latter will automatically respond with a list of commands. By texting these commands to the affected device, the attacker could remotely lock the phone with a password or even issue fake low-battery warnings.

At this point, the attacker is given total access to the coordinates of the infected phone. Although the app is no longer available to download from Google’s marketplace, Zscaler reports it found the code living in another remote access program, called DroidJack.

There is of course no shortage of ways in which an unscrupulous hacker could gain access into your phone, especially with the help of user-installed software. But this is certainly one of the more interesting methods. It’s also quite frightening, considering it gives the attacker so much power through the seemingly harmless and unsophisticated medium of text messages. Then again, in light of the deadly string of emojis that can incapacitate an iPhone, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.

Smart Home

OK Google, what else can you do? The best tips and tricks for Google Home

The Home functions in a similar fashion to its main competitor, the Amazon Echo, but has the added benefit of select Google services. Here are few tips to help you make the most of the newfangled device.
Gaming

Xbox's app lets you access your console while away from home. Here's how

Microsoft's Xbox allows you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.
Gaming

How to keep a PS4 in your pocket with the PlayStation Mobile app

Sony built the PlayStation 4 with smartphone and mobile integration in mind. Take a look at our guide for connecting your smartphone or tablet to a PS4, so you can get the most out of the system while on the go.
Computing

Enjoy Windows on a Chromebook with these great tips and tricks

If you want to push the functionality of your new Chromebook to another level, and Linux isn't really your deal, you can try installing Windows on a Chromebook. Here's how to do so in case you're looking to nab some Windows-only software.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. S10 Plus vs. S10e vs. S10 5G: Which should you buy?

With four stunning Galaxy S10 phones to choose from, Samsung is bombarding us with choice, but which one should you buy? We compare the S10, S10 Plus, S10e, and S10 5G in various categories to find out exactly how they differ.
Wearables

Samsung's new Galaxy Watch Active can track your blood pressure

Looking for a new fitness buddy? Samsung just launched the Galaxy Watch Active and the Galaxy Fit, two new wearables with a raft of fitness-focused features that'll keep you moving and get you down the gym.
Mobile

Adobe Premiere Rush CC is coming to the Samsung Galaxy S10 this year

The Samsung Galaxy S10 boasts a number of hardware improvements over previous Samsung phones, but it also offers a few software improvements too. Adobe Premiere Rush CC, for example, is coming to the Samsung Galaxy S10 later this year.
Gaming

Samsung Galaxy S10 optimizations make it great for Fortnite

Samsung's new line of Galaxy S10 devices have been optimized for gaming. All three offer improved support for the Unity engine and the S10 Plus also offers vapor chamber cooling, similar to the Xbox One X.
Mobile

From folding phones to 5G -- here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked

Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event treated us to a real parade of technological excellence, from folding phones to new fitness wearables. Here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked on February 20.
Mobile

Google’s radical Gmail redesign is finally rolling out on Android

Google is slowly but surely giving its apps a refresh, modernizing them and ensuring that they're easy to use. The latest app to get a redesign is the Gmail app for Android, which has been redesigned with a few tweaks.
Mobile

The best Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus cases to protect your $1,000 phone

Can't get enough of big phones? The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is absolutely up your alley. But it's still fragile, and damage is easily gathered through normal life. Protect it with the best Galaxy S10 Plus cases.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Galaxy S9: How much better is Samsung’s new flagship?

You'd naturally expect the Samsung Galaxy S10 to be better than last year's S9, but just how do the two phones differ? We break down the specs and compare Samsung's flagships in various categories to pick a winner.
Product Review

The Galaxy Watch Active is the right size for you, no matter how big or small your wrist is

Launched among a massive array of other new products, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active could easily have been missed at Galaxy Unpacked 2019 -- which would be unfortunate. This is a sensibly designed, correctly sized smartwatch suitable for…
Mobile

Protect and style your Samsung Galaxy S10 with the best cases and covers

If you've splashed the cash for a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S10, then you'll want to take steps to protect your investment. With a metal frame and glass curves, the S10 needs some cover. Check out the best Samsung Galaxy S10 cases.