How To: New Malware App Turns Your Android Phone's Camera into a Data Stealing Spy

New Malware App Turns Your Android Phone's Camera into a Data Stealing Spy

Robert Templeman from the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana and several of his friends from Indiana University recently developed an Android application that is capable of gathering pictures and videos from mobile devices in order to reconstruct a user's environment in 3D.

The malware would come coded inside of a camera application that the user would download. The malware, called PlaceRaider, would then randomly take pictures throughout the day and carefully piece them together to garner a three-dimensional image of where the user is. The camera is able to create a great rendition of the environment by knowing what orientation the camera is in during the picture, as well as the time and location.

The camera dismisses all pitch black pictures that might be taken while the camera is face-down, in a pocket or inside of a purse.

Hackers can then use the 3D rendition to look through the room and find anything valuable and worth stealing, including things like social security numbers, credit card information, and checking account numbers from documents laying around.

Templeman has already tested the application amongst 30 users unbeknownst to the malware. It tested out great and Templeman was able to collect valuable information from the 3D renditions.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

Though this hasn't been released to any real hackers, it just goes to show that it's pretty easy for someone to develop a spy program like this that the victim simply carries around with them wherever they go. So, just in case any mischievous hackers get any crazy ideas, what do you do to protect your device from unwanted espionage?

  • Don't download applications that give it too many permissions. If you do, make sure you know exactly what permissions you have given the app.
  • Make sure that your shutter sound (during a picture) is unable to be muted. The application automatically mutes this sound in order to masks itself, but you can render that impossible for the app to do.
  • The application can also shoot video secretly, so monitor the phone carefully because long videos will leave obvious dents in your phone memory.
  • You can look for antivirus applications that specifically look for this type of malware.
  • Buy a phone cover that has a camera lens cap. That way the malware will only take pictures of the dark.
  • Or... just carry your phone around in a sock all day long and use sparingly.

To see the full research paper, click here to download the PDF.

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