Hackers May Be Using Your Phone to Commit Crime

"We Were Shocked": Researchers Make Startling Discovery of Mobile Bot Infections Worldwide

What to Know

  • Researchers with a San Francisco tech company found "bad bots" were infecting millions of mobile devices worldwide
  • Hackers use mobile bots to commit online crime while remaining anonymous
  • NBC Bay Area will share the full study after its release on Wednesday, June 27, at 6:00 AM Pacific Time

Right now, your mobile phone could be hosting invisible software that's helping hackers commit crimes across the globe -- and you'd have virtually no way of knowing it.

That's one of the key findings made by a team of researchers at Distil Networks, an online security firm with operations in San Francisco.

Distil Networks gave NBC Bay Area early access to their study, which will be made public on Wednesday. Data engineers say they made an alarming discovery of bot networks, infecting millions of mobile devices worldwide.

Edward Roberts, a Distil Networks manager, told us his firm's findings emerged indirectly from an earlier online threat study.

"We were looking at the abuse of accounts and account takeover," Roberts said. "When we were doing that research, we suddenly realized that we were seeing a lot of mobile requests coming in."

That observation led to further scrutiny of mobile phone data. Researchers discovered a staggering number of infected phones worldwide.

"We were actually shocked" by the data, Roberts said. "We looked at another slice of data, and we got exactly the same number. We said, is this a one-off? So we looked at another time-frame, and we got the same number."

NBC Bay Area will share the researchers' findings, including just how likely it is that your phone might be hosting a bad bot -- and what you can do to protect your devices -- throughout the day Wednesday, on air, on our app, and online. We'll bring you a full report on the data Wednesday night, on NBC Bay Area News at 11 p.m.

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