Simple Phones Vulnerable to ‘SMS of Death’

With smartphones rapidly becoming more like regular computers, hackers are taking advantage by exploiting vulnerabilities and targeting phones for their own purposes (ie. jailbraking). One surprising development has been the spread of malware via text message.

Until recently, however, cellular attacks were primarily just a threat to more advanced smartphones (primarily iPhones or Android-based phones)—not anymore. Researchers have found that even simple-feature phones that have basic Internet (which make up more than 85% of the world’s cell phones) are now also vulnerable to text message malware, or “SMS of Death” attacks, as some have called it.

The way the “SMS of Death” works depends on the phone model and the bugs built into it; it might cause the phone to either shut off or temporarily crash. Or, at worst, it might cause the phone to keep restarting until the SIM card is taken out and inserted into a phone that is immune to the specific bug exploited.

Some of the popular simple phones that are vulnerable to this bug are Nokia (the S40 and related models, except for the very newest release), Sony Ericsson (w800 and several related models), LG (LG 320), Samsung (S5230 Star and S3250) Motorola (the RAZR, ROKR, and SVLR L7) and India’s Micromax (X114).

The problem here isn’t that these bugs were found, but rather the fact that they are not easy to fix as these inexpensive “feature phones” rarely if ever receive firmware updates. Instead, manufacturers mostly focus on the newest smartphones, leaving older simple-feature phones to get left behind and exploited.

As it becomes easier for manufacturers to spot these bugs and develop patches for them, however, there might soon be some firmware updates coming to the newest of the vulnerable phones, which will hopefully patch up this security breach.

(Via Wired / (Image by Kisekino01, licensed under Creative Commons)

About the author  ⁄ BrickHouse Security

BrickHouse Security is the industry's premier supplier of security and surveillance solutions. As a recognized authority in GPS tracking, hidden cameras, cell phone/PC monitoring, video surveillance and counter surveillance, we help our customers use technology to get the clarity they need. We proudly serve consumers, businesses of all sizes and the law enforcement community. When you need to know, BrickHouse has the answers.

  • mikey38654

    So… what exactly is the point of doing things like this to other people? How does it “benefit” anybody, even in the sense of drawing humor (as in, from a prank)? I mean, if you are smart enough to create such a thing as “SMS of Death,” use your “mad skillz” and “pwn-ing” power to do something productive. Something like helping manufacturers protect against such attacks (you might make some money that way, as in “a job”) or like writing programs for the Government to spy on other countries or something like that. That would be more helpful than sending a text out that will eventually reach my technologically impaired grandmother and make her phone unusable… then she can’t call 911 if needed. She can hardly operate her coffee-maker, and trying to teach her any form of technology past the basic functions of a television or landline phone is pretty much futile. So give up “pwn-ing” people you don’t even know (you can’t even see their reaction or how it impacts their life) and get a job using your “skillz” productively! Or, find another hobby.

    • http://blog.brickhousesecurity.com brickhousesecurity

      We totally agree; these skills, talents, or whatever you want to call them should be used for good rather than to annoy or cause trouble.

      But just like other forms of digital annoyance, such as DDoS attacks, people figure out how to use them, and then how to use them as weapons.

      So just like a DDoS attack, there really is no point of creating it, or using it, other than just to show off you can or to cause an inconvenience for others. And to agree with you, the world would be a better place if people used their skills and talents to create productive things instead of just wasting them on creating virtual attacks.

  • mikey38654

    So… what exactly is the point of doing things like this to other people? How does it “benefit” anybody, even in the sense of drawing humor (as in, from a prank)? I mean, if you are smart enough to create such a thing as “SMS of Death,” use your “mad skillz” and “pwn-ing” power to do something productive. Something like helping manufacturers protect against such attacks (you might make some money that way, as in “a job”) or like writing programs for the Government to spy on other countries or something like that. That would be more helpful than sending a text out that will eventually reach my technologically impaired grandmother and make her phone unusable… then she can't call 911 if needed. She can hardly operate her coffee-maker, and trying to teach her any form of technology past the basic functions of a television or landline phone is pretty much futile. So give up “pwn-ing” people you don't even know (you can't even see their reaction or how it impacts their life) and get a job using your “skillz” productively! Or, find another hobby.

    • http://blog.brickhousesecurity.com brickhousesecurity

      We totally agree; these skills, talents, or whatever you want to call them should be used for good rather than to annoy or cause trouble. But just like other forms of digital annoyance, such as DDoS attacks, people figure out how to use them, and then how to use them as weapons.So just like a DDoS attack, there really is no point of creating it, or using it, other than just to show off you can or to cause an inconvenience for others. And to agree with you, the world would be a better place if people used their skills and talents to create productive things instead of just wasting them on creating virtual attacks.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KAGFHRWRKOVSA3ULNCPTVFFYYM Janine

    That isn’t fair at all. Why should someone send that sms to another person. I’d be so mad. Probably I’d even sue the guy who sent it to me.

    http://www.free-sms.de

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KAGFHRWRKOVSA3ULNCPTVFFYYM Janine

    That isn’t fair at all. Why should someone send that sms to another person. I’d be so mad. Probably I’d even sue the guy who sent it to me.

    http://www.free-sms.de