Fri. Jan 21st, 2022


The preliminary apps in Google Play have been secure, however the creators discovered a manner across the Play Retailer’s protections to put in malware on Android customers’ units. Here is the way it occurred and the way to keep secure.

Female hand using mobile smart phone with icon graphic cyber security network of connected devices and personal privacy data information

Picture: marchmeena29, Getty Photographs/iStockphoto

A November report from ThreatFabric revealed that greater than 300,000 Android customers unknowingly downloaded malware with banking trojan capabilities, and that it bypassed the Google Play Retailer restrictions.

The cybercriminals developed a technique for efficiently infecting Android customers with completely different banking trojans, that are designed to realize entry to consumer account credentials. Step one was to submit apps to the Google Play Retailer that had nearly no malicious footprint and that truly appeared like purposeful, helpful purposes, akin to QR Code scanners, PDF scanners, cryptocurrency-related apps or fitness-related apps.

As soon as launched, these apps requested the consumer to do an replace, which was downloaded outdoors of the Google Play Retailer (sideloading method) and put in the malicious content material on the Android machine.

SEE: Password breach: Why popular culture and passwords do not combine (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

So, whereas the preliminary utility didn’t comprise something malicious, it offered a approach to set up the malicious content material after the set up was achieved, making it absolutely invisible to the Google Play Retailer.

The attackers have been cautious sufficient to submit an preliminary model of their purposes, which didn’t comprise any obtain or set up performance, and later up to date the purposes on the Google Play Retailer with extra permissions, permitting the obtain and set up of the malware. They’ve additionally set restrictions through the use of mechanisms to make sure the payload was solely put in on actual victims’ units and never testing environments, making it even more durable to detect.

ThreatFabric found 4 completely different banking Trojan households: Anatsa, Alien, Hydra and Ermac, with Anatsa being probably the most widespread.

The safety of the Google Play Retailer

Google Play is the key repository for Android purposes, and any developer can submit his or her personal utility to the Play Retailer. The submitted utility will then undergo an app evaluation course of to make sure that it isn’t malicious and doesn’t violate any of the developer insurance policies.

SEE: Google Chrome: Safety and UI suggestions you want to know (TechRepublic Premium)

These insurance policies largely contain making certain that the content material of the app is acceptable, that it doesn’t impersonate or copy different apps or individuals, that it complies with monetization insurance policies, and gives minimal performance (it mustn’t crash on a regular basis, and it ought to respect the consumer expertise). 

On the safety aspect, apps submitted ought to in fact not be malicious: It mustn’t put a consumer or their knowledge in danger, compromise the integrity of the machine, achieve management over the machine, allow remote-controlled operations for an attacker to entry, use or exploit a tool, transmit any private knowledge with out satisfactory disclosure and consent, or ship spam or instructions to different units or servers.

Google’s course of to look at submitted purposes additionally consists of permission verifications. Some permissions or APIs, thought of delicate, want the developer to file particular authorization requests and have it reviewed by Google to make sure the applying does actually need these.

Malware and PUA on the Google Play Retailer

Whereas being very conscious and actively deploying fixed new strategies to deal with malware, the Google Play Retailer can nonetheless be bypassed in uncommon instances. The entire evaluation course of utilized to utility submissions for the Google Play Retailer makes it actually onerous for cybercriminals to unfold malware by way of the platform although it’s sadly nonetheless attainable.

SEE: Password breach: Why popular culture and passwords do not combine (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

A examine launched in November 2020 by the NortonLifeLock Analysis Group revealed that amongst 34 million APKs unfold on 12 million Android units, between 10% and 24% of it could possibly be described as malicious or doubtlessly undesirable purposes, relying on completely different classifications. Of these purposes, 67% have been put in from the Google Play Retailer. The researchers point out that “the Play market is the principle app distribution vector answerable for 87% of all installs and 67% of undesirable installs. Nonetheless, its is simply 0.6% vector detection ratio, exhibiting that the Play market defenses towards undesirable apps work, however nonetheless vital quantities of undesirable apps are capable of bypass them, making it the principle distribution vector for undesirable apps. Ultimately, customers usually tend to set up malware by downloading it from internet pages by way of their machine browsers or from various marketplaces.

Easy methods to defend your Android machine from malware

With just a few steps, it’s attainable to considerably scale back the chance of getting an Android machine being compromised.

  • Keep away from unknown shops. Unknown shops usually don’t have any malware detection processes, in contrast to the Google Play Retailer. Do not set up software program in your Android machine which comes from untrusted sources.
  • Rigorously verify requested permissions when putting in an app. Functions ought to solely request permissions for needed APIs. A QR Code scanner mustn’t ask for permission to ship SMS, for instance. Earlier than putting in an utility from the Google Play Retailer, scroll down on the app description and click on on the App Permissions to verify what it requests.
  • Quick request for replace after set up is suspicious. An utility that’s downloaded from the Play Retailer is meant to be the most recent model of it. If the app asks for replace permission on the first run, instantly after its set up, it’s suspicious.
  • Verify the context of the applying. Is the applying the primary one from a developer? Has it only a few evaluations, perhaps solely five-star evaluations?
  • Use safety purposes in your Android machine. Complete safety purposes ought to be put in in your machine to guard it.

Disclosure: I work for Development Micro, however the views expressed on this article are mine.

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