“Most malware writers are motivated by money, and Android is no exception. There are now obvious ways to use USSD attacks for financial gain,” said Tjark Auerbach, founder and CEO of Avira. “But in the worst case, this exploit can be used to factory reset your Android phone and wipe out all your data without your knowledge. So we developed the Avira USSD Exploit Blocker to protect Avira’s customers and everyone else who needs it.”
The USSD vulnerability was discovered by Dylan Reeve and was originally thought to affect just Samsung Galaxy phones, but it has since been confirmed to affect all Android phones running versions 4.0.x or lower.
It works by using the special dial code, for example *#06# to display a phone’s IMEI number, which in turn can be manipulated via SMS, NFC beam or even a malicious website link to lock the phone’s SIM card, or factory-reset the phone and wipe out all its data.
In addition, sending a special code can re-direct all calls to a premium number in order to pile up charges on the phone user’s bill without the user knowing.