Android phones to have anti-smishing apps

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Android phones to have anti-smishing apps

Android-based smartphones will be sold with preinstalled apps that block fraudulent messages starting next month and users of older models can download the free apps available at the Google Play store, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning announced yesterday.

In recent years, smishing, a combination of the words SMS and phishing, has become a popular way for hackers to defraud Korean smartphone users. A hacker pretends to be an acquaintance of the phone owner and sends that person a fake birthday party invitation or a gift voucher containing a URL address. When the link is clicked on, an app is secretly installed or some malicious code is injected and financial information is then taken from the user.

According to the Korea Phone Bill Industry Association, total financial damages from smishing last year amounted to 4.5 billion won ($4.4 million) in 76,355 cases, but no solution has been found other than not clicking on suspicious links.

The move by the Science Ministry is the first time the government has required a security app to be installed on phones, but the rule applies to only to those that run on Android and are made by Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics or Pantech.

The country’s three mobile carriers have already decided which smishing-blocking app they will partner with. SK Telecom smartphones will come with an app called T Guard, which it created with a small software developer, while KT and LG U+ will run apps developed by ESTsoft, the developer of the widely used PC multipurpose software package ALTools.

If a user doesn’t like the app provided by the carrier, he or she can install a different one.

The state-run Korea Internet Security Agency (KISA) yesterday released a list on its website of seven free apps that block smishing by preventing fraudulent text messages from reaching a user’s inbox.

The vaccine apps, developed by major Korean security software companies such as AhnLab, Hauri and Seworks, passed KISA’s performance test.

“These apps proved to be capable of detecting and blocking about 60 percent of phishing text messages containing malicious codes,” said Lee Su-hyeong, a director at the Science Ministry. “In a bid to boost the detectability, the ministry will hold regular performance tests on them.”

However, the apps can’t be used on iPhones or foreign-made Android phones.

The iOS operating system is known to be less vulnerable to smishing scams because it requires the user to log in to an Apple account each time he or she installs a new app, unless the phone has been unlocked and the default security settings have been removed.


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