Thursday briefing: ‘Agent Smith’ Android malware has infected 25 million devices

Security researchers at Check Point have discovered new Android malware, dubbed ‘Agent Smith’, infesting 25 million devices worldwide, with 15 million of those in India (The Verge).

Hidden in a variety of apps, the malware is most frequently distributed through third-party stores, notably 9Apps, whose primary audience is Hindi, Arabic, Russian, Indonesian speakers, with around 137,000 infections seen in the UK. It targets a vulnerability affecting older, unpatched Android versions and makes money for its creators by inserting its ads into other apps, preventing many from updating in the process.

US inquiry into French digital tax could pave the way for trade war

The US government says it will investigate France’s forthcoming digital tax to “determine whether it is discriminatory or unreasonable and burdens or restricts United States commerce” (BBC News). Such “Section 301” investigations have previously paved the pay for punitive trade tariffs on countries that raise the US’s ire.

The digital tax, which is anticipated to come into French law today, will place a 3 percent levy on revenue made inside France by digital tech multinationals such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, which route their European profits through low-tax countries such as Luxembourg and Ireland.

Amazon’s Alexa deal with the NHS can help patients but at what cost?

Amazon is partnering with the NHS to stream the health service’s advice already available online through Alexa, but using voice (WIRED). In principle, it sounds like an interesting proposition – especially in the wake of the government trying to encourage people to judge their symptoms better and avoid coming into the country’s overburdened GP practices when they don’t need to. But Elliott Singer, a GP partner in East London and Medical Director for Londonwide LMCs warns that “the technology and the algorithms it uses are pretty basic and cannot make situational judgments to enable you to differentiate between a minor illness and a serious illness.”

Mozilla blocks UAE certificate authority DigitalTrust over spying concernsMozilla has become the first major browser maker to block digital certificates published by United Arab Emirates company DigitalTrust over credible concerns that the firm may use them to engage in spying attacks (The Register). DigitalTrust is a subsidiary of DarkMatter, a UAE-based security firm that has been associated with Emirati government hacking operations, including Project Raven, which broke into the accounts of journalists, foreign officials and human rights activists.
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