By Dan Goodin in San Francisco

Researchers have disclosed bugs in Google's Android mobile operating system that allow attackers to surreptitiously install malware on users' handsets.

The most serious of the two flaws was poignantly demonstrated on Wednesday in a proof-of-concept app that was available in the Google-sanctioned Market. Disguised as an expansion for the popular game Angry Birds, it silently installs three additional apps that without warning have access to a phone's contacts, location information and SMS functionality and can transmit their data to a remote server.

It took Google about six hours to pull the bogus app, said Scio Security CTO Jon Oberheide, one of the two researchers to discover and exploit the vulnerability. What will be harder to lock down are the special security tokens the web giant uses to authenticate Android users so they don't have to expose their passwords to third-party services. The proof-of-concept works by exploiting weaknesses in that Android token system.

“It abuses that token to perform the same actions the legitimate Market app would perform, but without asking for permission,” Oberheide told The Register. “Through some of the research, we realized we could use this one specific token for the Android service to bypass the restrictions on the permission system.”

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