An information security company has warned about malicious Android smartphone applications that steal and transmit personal data, such as contact information stored in users' address books.
The company said these types of free applications have been downloaded up to 270,000 times, indicating that potentially millions of people have had their personal information stolen.
An Internet security expert said, "It's possible that creating applications that transmits users' information without consent can be considered a crime under the Penal Code, which criminalises the creation of computer viruses."
According to NetAgent Co., a Tokyo-based information security company, the applications were disguised as video tutorials for popular games on Google Inc.'s Android operating system.
The applications were named by affixing the expression "the Movie" to existing game titles. The company found at least 16 of these applications.
The company's analysis revealed that when these applications are activated, they can automatically transmit not only a person's telephone number, their e-mail address and the phone's ID number, but also the personal names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of contacts stored on the smartphone's address book.
Although the creators of these applications aren't well known, the stolen information was sent to the same domestic server. The applications were deleted on Friday.
When users download the malicious applications, a message pops up on the display screen requesting permission for access to contact information.