To be absolutely sure that your phone is not tracking you, you can turn it off. It looks and sounds reasonable, even if the phone is infected with spyware, it won't be able to do anything.
In addition, turning off or restarting a smartphone is one of the most reliable ways to fight such infections. In many cases, spyware only lives until the next reboot because it cannot gain a permanent foothold in the operating system. At the same time, vulnerabilities that allow malware to function even after a reboot are rare and expensive to exploit.
However, this tactic may not work forever. Researchers have devised a technique to bypass it, using a method they have named NoReboot. In essence, this attack is a false reboot.
What is NoReboot and how the attack works
For the demonstration, the researchers used an iPhone that they "infected" in advance. Unfortunately, they didn't share the technical details. Check out what's happening in the demo:
- The spyware, which transfers the image from the device's camera, normally runs on the iPhone,
- The user tries to turn off the phone in the usual way, using the power and volume keys,
- The malware takes control and displays a perfect imitation instead of the standard iOS shutdown screen,
- After the user swipes the screen off, which also seems completely normal, the smartphone screen goes dark and the phone no longer responds to any user actions,
- When the user presses the power button again, the malware displays a perfect copy of the iOS boot.
- During the entire process, the phone is constantly transferring the image from the phone's front camera to another device without the user's knowledge.
Here is the video uploaded by the analysts:
How to protect yourself from NoReboot
The attack is certainly very dangerous, but don't forget that the malware must enter a smartphone before it can do any damage. Here are some tips to help prevent this from happening:
- Keep in mind that it is much more difficult for attackers to infect a smartphone remotely than if they have physical access to it. Be careful not to let someone else get their hands on your smartphone, especially for a long time, and install a reliable device lock.
- People most often install malware on their smartphones by themselves, voluntarily. Be careful about what you download and avoid installing unnecessary apps.
- Do not root or jailbreak your smartphone. Root privileges make the job of malware easier.
- If you have an Android device, we recommend that you install an anti-virus solution to prevent Trojans from penetrating the system.
- Allow the battery from your smartphone to drain normally, i.e. wait until the charge is completely finished. Then the phone will definitely reboot and in the right way. You can speed up the process by using a resource-intensive application, such as a game or benchmark testing utility.