March 9, 2015 By Shane Schick 2 min read

You never want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but Android users who receive a text message about a free Amazon gift card should double-check to make sure they aren’t about to download mobile malware instead.

Gazon Mobile Malware Spreads

Researchers at Adaptive Mobile were among the first to raise awareness about Worm.Gazon, which spreads via SMS. In a series of screenshots, Adaptive Mobile shows how those who click on a link in the text messages are redirected to a bogus portal to take a survey. In the meantime, cybercriminals gain access to the user’s contact list to further spread the spam.

As CSO Online pointed out, cybercriminals have gotten used to exploiting Android devices with worms that harvest their personal information or lock users out until a ransom is paid. However, like some of the most successful hacking schemes, Gazon appears to rely largely on social engineering, or tricking users, rather than any flaws in the device’s operating system.

In this case, the supposed Amazon gift card is worth $200 — not large enough to seem overly suspicious, but similar to other marketing campaigns that ask for survey information in exchange for a chance to receive a prize. SC Magazine reported that beyond merely distributing the mobile malware to an Android user’s address book, requiring the victims to answer a series of questions means the cybercriminals are likely making money off some kind of advertising affiliate program, as well.

Targeting Android Users

Although the scam has already hit an estimated 4,000 North American users alone in less than a week, there may only be a subset of Android device owners at risk. According to the Sophos’ Naked Security blog, those who adhere to the default settings for the Google Play app store might be warned about installing apps from unknown sources such as an SMS URL.

For those who have been hoodwinked, the cybercriminals don’t seem focused on stealing banking information or other sensitive data. Instead, they seem primarily focused on users’ connections. This makes sense, since the wider Gazon’s reach becomes, the more incremental revenue can be generated by those behind it. In fact, ZDNet said Gazon’s distribution strategy is not only limited to text messages, but also spans to social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, as BGR points out, those whose Android smartphones get hit by the mobile malware can have their devices wiped or have it removed with off-the-shelf software tools. Once their address book has been compromised, however, it may be too late. Unlike a one-time Amazon gift card, that kind of data offers cybercriminals a gift that can keep on giving.

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