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Mobile device protection: How to thwart SMS Trojans

Expert Nick Lewis explains how to properly secure a smartphone in order to thwart Trojans that steal SMS messages.

What's the best way to protect against Trojans on mobile phones, particularly SMS Trojans that try to steal SMS messages? Is there a way to encrypt SMS messages between mobile phones in the enterprise?

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How to secure a smartphone in the enterprise has been covered in a previous Ask the Expert question, and he same security steps will likewise protect smartphones from Trojans that steal SMS messages.

Many applications, especially those installed on Android-powered smartphones, will request more permission than necessary and may even request access to SMS messages when not needed. Users may not carefully review the access they are granting to an application when it is installed, and may allow an application access to SMS messages when not necessary. This user behavior is exactly what attackers try to exploit. Instruct users to carefully review if an application needs access to SMS messages before granting it permissions and/or installing the application.

To further protect against rogue or Trojan applications that could gain access to SMS messages, users can encrypt the messages. There are ways to encrypt SMS messages sent between mobile phones using available applications. TextSecure is one product that allows users to send and receive encrypted text messages in transport and store them on the smartphone. Both the sender and the receiver need to have TextSecure installed, but this process requires no other configuration besides a password. Using this application could enable the secure usage of SMS messaging. There are also commercial applications like Protected SMS that can be used in the corporate environment.

This was last published in April 2012

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