Freeware games can actually cost you more money than their pay-to-play cousins, as mobile gamers in the UK have learned. A "booby-trapped" version of a popular Windows Mobile game has been sneakily spending their money while they sleep - by dialling phone numbers in the Antarctic behind their backs.
Described as a "mobile version of the classic Counter-Strike", the pirated title contains hidden code which has been silently ringing numbers in the Antarctic block, the Dominican Republic, Somalia and other premium locations, simple calls which cost roughly 5 euro (more than US$6) per minute from a UK mobile phone.
The original game - 3D Anti Terrorist Action - was released as a shareware demo, before Russian virus artists got a hold of it, made a few tweaks and then published a freeware version, containing their dialler - Trojan.WinCE.Terdial.a.
The dodgy dialler was discovered back in March, but as the pirated game makes its way to more and more websites offering free Windows mobile applications, it's still making calls, and taking advantage of people looking to get something for nothing.
It seems that mobile phone tricks are gaining in popularity as virtually everything done on the phone will incur a charge - then it's just a matter of siphoning part of that cash flow back to the developers... much better rate of return than Nigerian scam emails!
In fact, Kaspersky Labs reports that the growth rate for PC viruses and trojans has been flattening in the past three years, but they have seen more than 200% growth in mobile threats.
Obviously, common sense dictates a pretty simple way to avoid this - don't play mobile games you've found on random sites, and make sure you're completely informed about what you're installing onto your handset. If you're truly concerned, blocking international dialling from your mobile may also be a smart option. However, if this is all a bit late and you're infected - the XDA developers forum contains a few tips on how to remove the trojan.
...incidentally, we hear that the game itself is pretty rubbish, just so you know.
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Jimmy the Geek