What the malware creators intend to do with the privacy-invading information is still an unknown. The app runs in the background and appears on the smartphone or tablet as an icon with the word “store” written on it.
The store icon is apparently meant to fool the device user into thinking that it is only an e-commerce app, according to Bitdefender. In actuality, the malware broadcasts latitude and longitude of the device, as well as the name of the wireless carrier. It also attempts to enable the device’s Wi-Fi connection and scan for access points. All the data is transmitted to the remote server via the device’s Internet connection.
“Speculating on why all this information is broadcasted, we could conclude that infected devices act as beacons, providing attackers with a relative positioning of certain Wi-Fi networks and the frequency to which infected devices connect or interact with them,” BitDefender said in a blog post on Tuesday.
The lightweight spyware has no user interface and transmits location information every couple of seconds. Because the malware runs so effectively in the background, Bitdefender believes it will eventually be bundled with other apps.
Whether it’s spyware or another type of malicious app, the number of mobile malware is soaring. The rate of growth last year was 155 percent over 2010, according to Juniper Networks. During the first quarter of this year, the year-to-year increase was 30 percent, with spyware alone doubling. Most mobile malware is targeted at Android, the leading smartphone operating system.
The Latitude ST has a 10.1-inch screen and is designed for use in business environments, said Kirk Schell, executive director and general manager for Dell’s Business Product Group. The tablet has provisioning, security and management features aimed at enterprise customers.
Dell has put its consumer tablet business on the backseat as it tries to focus on devices that straddle both work and play. Dell is trying to establish a larger presence in enterprises, and has said that its future tablets and smartphones will be aimed at audiences that want them for both business and personal use. Dell has already released Streak tablets with different screen sizes that run Google’s Android OS, and Venue smartphones that use both Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating systems.
The ST tablet is an expansion to the Latitude line of laptops and desktops for businesses, Schell said. A separate keyboard can be attached to the tablet to turn it into a PC, but the tablet form factor is more advantageous as it is highly portable, Schell said. The tablet will offer seven hours of battery life, and weight starts at 1.8 pounds (816 grams).
The product will be available on Nov. 1 in 53 countries, according to the company’s website. The tablet runs on Intel’s Atom Z670 processor with a clock speed of 1.5GHz, and has up to 128GB of storage.
The proposed class action, filed in a Seattle federal court on Wednesday, states Microsoft intentionally designed camera software on the Windows Phone 7 operating system to ignore customer requests that they not be tracked.
A Microsoft representative could not immediately be reached for comment.
The lawsuit comes after concerns surfaced earlier this year that Apple’s iPhones collected location data and stored it for up to a year, even when location software was supposedly turned off. Apple issued a patch to fix the problem.
However, the revelation prompted renewed scrutiny of the nexus between location and privacy. At a hearing in May, U.S. lawmakers accused the tech industry of exploiting location data for marketing purposes — a potentially multibillion-dollar industry — without getting proper consent from millions of Americans.
The lawsuit against Microsoft cites a letter the company sent to Congress, in which Microsoft said it only collects geolocation data with the express consent of the user.
“Microsoft’s representations to Congress were false,” the lawsuit says.
The litigation, brought on behalf of a Windows Phone 7 user, claims Microsoft transmits data — including approximate latitude and longitude coordinates of the user’s device — while the camera application is activated. It seeks an injunction and punitive damages, among other remedies.
Only 4% of adults online are using a location-based service, such as Foursquare or Gowalla, to share their location with friends or find other people nearby, according to the first report on the use of “geosocial” or location-based services by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life project.
The study also revealed that on any given day, 1% of Internet users are utilizing these services. The findings reflect virtually no change from a May 2010 survey, which showed that 5% of adult Internet users said they had used a geosocial or location-based site from their GPS-enabled mobile devices to “check in” to a location to notify others of their whereabouts.
The Pew Center study found that 7% of adults who use the Internet from their mobile device use a location-based service and that 8% of adults between 18 and 29 go online to use location-based services, significantly more than adults online in any other age group. Location-based services are used by 10% of online Hispanics, significantly more than the 3% of online whites or online blacks (5%). Services such as Foursquare or Gowalla are used by 6% of men online, compared with only 3% of women online. Four percent of respondents have an income level of $75,000 or higher, while 6% have an income level of between $50,000 and $74,999.
Besides the social networking aspect of location-based services, users can leave comments or reviews for a restaurant or other business that can be viewed by other users. Detailed, real-time customer information about habits and preferences is valuable to businesses looking to offer special deals, discounts and rewards to frequent users.
An Internet-enabled mobile device is generally required to use a location-based service, but 2% of non-wireless users — those who do not use a wireless-enabled laptop or go online with a cell phone — reported also using this type of service. Geosocial services like Brightkite, which lets cell phone users update a location by SMS, and Google Latitude or Dopplr, which can be used on a desktop computer, are other examples of how location-based services can be used, the report said.
With pre-existing sites like Twitter and Facebook now featuring the ability of users to report their location, “it is possible as the lines between different types of services become increasingly blurred, it is difficult for respondents to always pinpoint exactly what sort of software they are using — especially on their mobile devices,” the report noted.
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted a telephone survey between Aug. 9 and Sept. 13, 2010, and the findings are based on a sample of 3,001 adults ages 18 and older.