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MMS spam: a battery-killing attack?

Chris Ziegler

Modern smartphones struggle to eke out a day or two of moderate use as it is without malicious folk tapping into your battery; sadly, researchers at UC Davis have apparently managed to do exactly that, exploiting fundamental flaws in the way most phones handle the MMS protocol to drain juice. It seems the trouble stems from "junk data" sent via MMS, which causes the phone to wake from standby, realize the data doesn't constitute a valid message, and discard it, all without any notification to the user. Rapidly repeat the process, and, well, you can see where this leads. All the attacker needs is the target phone's number, and before you know it, your battery's history (the researchers were able to do the deed at about 20 times the normal drain rate, to be exact). Their work wasn't all gloom and doom, though -- another MMS exploit allowed the wily grad students to fire off messages free of charge. Of course, with a dead battery, you won't be firing off much of anything.


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