Weird SMS messages from unknown numbers

Submitted by dag on Mon, 2009/11/23 - 17:10

Since as far as I can remember owning Nokia phones I get strange text messages from unknown numbers that look like this:


From: +79196575267
Time: 11/11/2009 14:48
1257950895 1 912.867409663487

or


From: +79198163461
Time: 23/11/2009 15:23
1258989829 1 795.947321834859

or


From: +79195518714
Time: 23/11/2009 16:52
1258995167 1 590.061261517537

Today I got two of these within 30 minutes.

I cannot remember if they all were similar to this, since by default they are not being saved. Instead they open automatically and they disappear when closed. Unless you specifically say you want to save them.

With the risk of making now something private public, does anyone know what they are and who is sending me these ?

  • Is my cellphone being brute-forced by script-kiddies ?
  • Is there a virus going around in +79 area code ?
  • Is this an attempt by terrorists to have my cellphone exploded ?
  • Is this an attempt to call them and be charged hundreds of Euros per second ?
  • Is someone trying to tell me that they are being held in a Chinese factory ?
  • Is Nokia trying to update my phone remotely ?
  • Is this the result of cosmic radiation ?
  • Is this a program with communication capabilities having unexpected memory errors ?
  • Is something calling home with eg. GPS coordinates ?

I wonder...

Update: In case you noticed, the first part is the epoch (number of seconds since 1 Jan 1970). The second part might be the timezone ? And the additional part milliseconds ? But who would be sending me this and why ?

Other possibilities

* Pending alien invasion ?
* Messages from the future (or past) sent to the wrong person ?

Time update?

Maybe a futile attempt of your services provider at automatic time updates? I haven't tried to decode the epoch data to see what the exact timing is, as I'm waiting in line at the butcher'.

Well, it's quite easy to

Well, it's quite easy to decode that timestamp using date --date="XXX secs since Jan 1 1970", and the time being send is the current time.

However, if it's my service provider then why from a spoofed number (coming from Kazachstan ?) and why does it cause an SMS to open automatically (rather than set my time correctly). And why 2 times today ? :-)

Software bugs ?

I like my other explanations more though. This would be boring :-P

Timezones and optionally the

Timezones and optionally the time itself is usually taken from the cellphone towers, not sent by SMS :).

SMS class

There are 4 different SMS classes.

A normal SMS is class 1; these get stored into the phone or on the sim depending on configuration and available space.

The message you received is a class 0 SMS. According to the specs, these should be shown immediately and it's not necessary to save them. They are also known as flash SMS'es and some phones can send them.

A class 2 SMS should be saved directly on the sim and a class 3 SMS should be 'forwarded to an external device'. No idea what that means...

Part of the story

Check this:

http://www.mtt.ru/info/def/index.wbp?def=919&number=6575267

This number belongs to a Russian mobile phone operator "MTS" (subregion of the Republic of Chuvashia).

The reason why you are getting these messages is less obvious to me, but I guess it *might* be a bug in the billing system or someone's faulty phone tracking system.

I might ask someone to clear this up if you wish, but I'm not sure that they will be able / willing to do so.

This messages are so-called

This messages are so-called USSD messages your mobile device (cell phone in this case) receives in USSD push mode. This messages are being send from the russian end-user mobile number (+7 is a russian international phone code) and it's hard to tell either why does this russian mobile operator (local code 919 is operated by regional subsection of MTS mobile phone operator - one of the biggest mobile operators in Russia) allows to send USSD messages from the customers cell phones. As far as I know USSD outgoing text messaging should be blocked by default as it allow to send direct-to-phone-display spam and may allow forgeries by third parties. It is also strange that your phone was selected as one of the targets - I can hardly see any ways they may use to fool you and make any profit by sending messages like you had published.

Most probably this messages are the products of the unqualified persons trying to develop (or to correctly configure) SMS spam sending software - this kind of illegitimate advertisments was gaining an increased popularity last years. I live in Moscow and it is typical nowadays to receive about 20 spam SMS messages per week and I can hardly see any signs that the situation would become any better soon.