Altered Android application spreads a martyr's message

The rogue application for Android is politically rather than financially motivated

A popular Android application for Muslim users has been curiously hacked to commemorate the memory of a Tunisian produce vendor whose suicide kicked off anti-government protests in the country a year ago.

The application, called AlSalah, calculates prayer times and includes a compass. Thelegitimate version is found in the Android market. But a tampered version has shown up in forums dedicated to Middle Eastern issues, wrote Irfan Asrar, of Symantec.

That version contains code called "alArabiyyah" that works in the background unbeknownst to a user, he wrote. If installed, the code picks one link from a list of 18 URLs that contain identical tributes to Mohamed Bouazizi and sends it out by SMS to everyone in the victim's contact list.

About a year ago, Bouazizi was an unknown produce seller scraping together a meager living. He was harassed by government officials over his fruit and vegetable cart, and after being denied an audience with a local government official, set himself on fire.

Bouazizi became a symbol of Tunisian people's frustration with the government. He was visited in the hospital by President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali shortly before he died in January.

Less than two weeks after Bouazizi's death, Ben Ali stepped down after widespread civil unrest. Tunisia's turmoil spread through the Middle East as part of the "Arab Spring" movement that saw governments in Egypt and Libya eventually fall.

The altered version of AlSalah doesn't appear to lead to any other malicious software. But it does have another interesting function. If the application detects that the phone is from Bahrain, it will try to download a PDF to the phone's SD card, Asrar wrote.

"The PDF file was examined and does not contain any malicious code or exploits," Asrar wrote. "The report itself is a fact-finding inquiry by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry on allegations of human rights violations."

Although the altered application is not terribly harmful, Symantec's Norton Mobile Security product will detect it, which the company has dubbed "Android.Arspam."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags symantec

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?