Not too many years ago we had phones that only made calls. Smartphones are the newest generation of phones that bring a lot of possibilities right to our fingers through the apps specifically designed for them. We all got used to the Windows (or Mac) world, but now we are witnessing a revolution from “standard” programs and some specialized tools to a world where every common thing can be done by our smartphones. Sometimes it seems, that the device is smarter than we are!
But can it protect itself from the increasing number of threats?
You’ll find a lot of articles on the Internet which state that security companies exaggerate the need for mobile security and antivirus protection. You’ll read that Google Play and the new security technologies of Android Lollipop are the only things necessary for security. I could post many examples of such (bad) tips, but I don’t want to waste your time or mine.
Do you use only Google Play as your app source?
A common (and wise) security tip is to stick with Google Play for downloading apps. This is good advice despite the fact that we see here in the Avast blog that Google Play fails to detect some apps as malware. Look for our mobile malware senior virus analyst Filip Chytry’s articles. He continuously discovers holes in Google Play security.
However, what if you want apps that have been banned from Google Play? No, I’m not talking about (just) adult apps. Google banned anti-ad apps, for instance. So where is a safe place to get them? The answer is simple: outside of Google Play. The Amazon Appstore for Android is quickly increasing the possibilities.
Do you think that clean apps can’t become bad ones?
Clean apps can become bad ones, and with the new Google Play permission scheme, you may not even notice. This makes updating your apps (another very common and wise hint) an additional complication.
As the apps we love can turn against us, the best tip of all is that you install a mobile security app that helps you know what it being added to your phone. Avast Mobile Security updates its virus database very often to detect the latest threats and allows you to install securely all the apps you love.
This makes you smarter than your smartphone!
A couple of days ago, a user posted a comment on our forum regarding apps harboring adware that can be found on Google Play. This didn’t seem like anything spectacular at the beginning, but once I took a closer look it turned out that this malware was a bit bigger than I initially thought. First of all, the apps are on Google Play, meaning that they have a huge target audience – in English speaking and other language regions as well. Second, the apps were already downloaded by millions of users and third, I was surprised that the adware lead to some legitimate companies.
The Durak card game app was the most widespread of the malicious apps with 5 – 10 million installations according to Google Play.
When you install Durak, it seems to be a completely normal and well working gaming app. This was the same for the other apps, which included an IQ test and a history app. This impression remains until you reboot your device and wait for a couple of days. After a week, you might start to feel there is something wrong with your device. Some of the apps wait up to 30 days until they show their true colors. After 30 days, I guess not many people would know which app is causing abnormal behavior on their phone, right?
Each time you unlock your device an ad is presented to you, warning you about a problem, e.g. that your device is infected, out of date or full of porn. This, of course, is a complete lie. You are then asked to take action, however, if you approve you get re-directed to harmful threats on fake pages, like dubious app stores and apps that attempt to send premium SMS behind your back or to apps that simply collect too much of your data for comfort while offering you no additional value.
An even bigger surprise was that users were sometimes directed to security apps on Google Play. These security apps are, of course, harmless, but would security providers really want to promote their apps via adware? Even if you install the security apps, the undesirable ads popping up on your phone don‘t stop. This kind of threat can be considered good social engineering. Most people won‘t be able to find the source of the problem and will face fake ads each time they unlock their device. I believe that most people will trust that there is a problem that can be solved with one of the apps advertised “solutions” and will follow the recommended steps, which may lead to an investment into unwanted apps from untrusted sources.
Avast Mobile Premium detects these apps, protecting its users from the annoying adware. Additionally, the apps’ descriptions should make users skeptical about the legitimacy of the apps. Both in English and in other languages such as German, were written poorly: “A card game called ‘Durak‘ – one of the most common and well known game“.
The apps‘ secure hash algorithm (SHA256) is the following: BDFBF9DE49E71331FFDFD04839B2B0810802F8C8BB9BE93B5A7E370958762836 9502DFC2D14C962CF1A1A9CDF01BD56416E60DAFC088BC54C177096D033410ED FCF88C8268A7AC97BF10C323EB2828E2025FEEA13CDC6554770E7591CDED462D
As a malware analyst, I find new pieces of malware day in and day out. In fact, I see so many new malware samples that it’s difficult for me to determine which pieces would be really interesting for the public. Today, however, I found something that immediately caught my attention and that I thought would be interesting to share.
The three URLs listed above are websites that offer mobile monetizing kits, which are advertising kits that developers can implement in their mobile apps. The goal for developers is to monetize from advertisements. If a user clicks on one of the ads delivered by one of the above listed providers, he may be lead to a malicious subdomain.
The most visited of the three URLs is Espabit. According to our statistics, we know that Espabit’s servers get around 150,000 views a day and nearly 100% of the views are from mobile devices. This may not seem like that much compared to the number of Android users there are in the world, but it is still a considerable number. Espabit is trying to position themselves as a world leader in advertising, and their website may appear innocent, but first impressions can be deceiving.
The most visited Espabit subdomain, with more than 400,000 views during the last few months, leads app users to pornographic sites via the ads displayed in their apps. The site displays a download offer for nasty apps (no pun intended) that have malicious behavior.
The above is just one example of the malicious links; there are many others hosted on the same server. The majority of the links lead to pornography or fake apps that all have one thing in common: They all steal money from innocent users.
How do they convince people to download their app? By posing as official Google Play apps. The apps are designed to look like they are from the official Google Play Store – tricking people into trusting the source. Since Android does not allow users to install apps from untrusted sources, the sites offer manuals in different languages, like English, Spanish, German, and French, explaining how to adjust Android’s settings so that users can install apps from untrusted sources, like these malicious apps. How considerate of them.
Now let’s take a deeper look at what the apps are capable of doing:
All of the “different” apps being offered by the three sites listed above are essentially the same in that they can steal personal information and send premium SMS. So far, we know about more than 40 of them stored on the websites’ servers. Most of the apps are stored under different links and, again, are offered in different languages (they want everyone to be able to “enjoy” their apps). The goal behind all of the apps is always the same: Steal money.
Some of the permissions the apps are granted when downloaded…
Once you open the apps, you get asked if you are 18 or older (they are not only considerate in that they offer their product in various languages, but they also have morals!).
After you click on “YES” you are asked to connect your device to the Internet. Once connected to the Internet your device automatically starts sending premium SMS, each costing $0.25 and sent three times a week. That’s all the app does! The amount stolen a week does not seem like much, but that may be done on purpose. People may not notice if their phone bill is $3.00 more than it was the month before and if they don’t realize that the app is stealing money from them and don’t delete the app it can cost them $36.00 a year.
This malware is actually not unique in terms of the technique it uses. However, collectively, the three websites have around 185,000 views daily, which is a lot considering there is malware stored on their servers. Not everyone is redirected to malware, but those who are, are being scammed. Considering that the most visited malicious subdomain had around 400,000 views in the last quarter, it tells us that a large number of those visitors were infected. This means these ad providers are making a nice sum of money and it’s not all from ad clicks and views.
Although many mobile carriers around the world block premium SMS, including major carriers in the U.S., Brazil, and the UK, this case should not be taken lightly. These malware authors use social engineering to circumvent Google’s security and target innocent app users via ads. Think of how many apps you use that display ads, then think of all the valuable information you have stored on your phone that could be abused.
All malicious apps we found and described here are detected by Avast as:
Some of SHA256:
We have been recently notified about a suspicious browser extension for Google Chrome. Suspicious because it was called “Avast Free Antivirus 2014″, while our browser extension is actually called Avast Online Security. You can see the fake extension along with our official ones in the printscreens from the Chrome Web Store.
The extension looks professional featuring printscreens of the PC version of Avast 2014 and a good rating of 4 stars. It is so well-done that it may trick users to install it – and indeed almost 2,000 users fell for this.
After installing, the only thing that is added is the little icon between the search bar and options button, as can be seen on the printscreen above, where the extension is already installed.
Viewing the extension code reveals that it is surprisingly lightweight. It merely opens a new tab with a predefined URL when the Avast icon is clicked.
The website, fortunately, is not malicious at all, so there is nothing harmful to the user, other than deceiving them with a false sense of security. The author of the extension created many more extensions, each leading to a different landing page on the same domain. The only comfort we received from this malicious extension, was that our extension was the most downloaded one! That confirms to us that our service is valued (and needed!).
To get the authentic Avast Online Security app for your browser, please visit us on the Chrome Web Store.
Last week, Google upgraded the Android app section of its store and introduced a new way for users to manage permissions. Google claims it will be easier for users to understand and that users will pay more attention to app permissions. The new interface has a cleaner look and the common user can now install apps more quickly. But does this simplicity come with a price?
Android controls the security and the amount of access every app is granted by using “permissions”. Each action has to ask the operating system for permission to take a new action. In older versions, when an app update asked for new actions or requested additional permissions, Google Play would notify the user prompting them to explicitly accept or deny the new action. Even if the user had automatic updates set, in the cases of new permissions being asked, the user would need to manually perform the update. Even if the user wasn’t exactly sure what they were giving permission for, at least the user was aware and could make the decision themselves. Security was preserved.
Everything is different now
Everything changed last week.
Individual permissions, which could range from important to trivial, are now joined into 13 groups, including a catch-all called “Other”. Now the user has to accept a “new group” change. This means that if you have already allowed certain permissions within a group, then any other permission within that group will automatically be allowed. For example, an app that could access your calendar can now also read your contacts. If you set a meeting and have invited people by email, the app will be able to use the calendar to send emails to them, even without your consent! Read more…
Official app stores are the primary sources to finding and downloading apps. Experts advise users to stay within the official app stores as they are approved ecosystems, which are widely recognized as safe. But are these sources really trustworthy? Some experts, however, claim that “Android malware is non-existent and security companies just try to scare us. Keep calm and don‘t worry.“ So which is it?
We’ve already blogged about plenty of threats that sneak onto your device from trusted sources, but here we have a really fresh one, one that is still undetected by other security vendors. An Application called Cámara Visión Nocturna (package name: com.loriapps.nightcamera.apk), which is still available in the Google Play Store as I am writing this post, is something you definitely don’t want to have on your Android device.
Starting with the application’s permissions you might notice there are some unusual requests for an app that should be able to work only using your camera.
<uses-permission android:name=”android.permission.CAMERA” />
To celebrate the new version of our top-rated avast! Mobile Security along with the new avast! Mobile Premium, AVAST and Android Police are giving away 9 new Nexus devices. You have one week to enter the contest to win one of these great Android phones or tablets:
- 2x Nexus 4 8GB
- 2x Nexus 4 16GB + bumpers + charging orb (2 bundles)
- 1x 2012 Nexus 7 16GB
- 2x Nexus 10 16GB
- 2x Nexus 10 32GB
Getting your name in the hat is easy – just go to the AVAST/Android Police contest page and answer a simple question:
What do you value most about your phone?
This can be a tricky question, so here are some examples of good answers:
- The device itself
- Text Messages
The International Mega Giveaway will run for one week and end at midnight (PST) on August 31st. Visit Android Police now to enter!
How to download avast! Mobile Premium
avast! Mobile Security and avast! Mobile Backup are FREE downloads in the Google Play store and can be used stand-alone as free versions or be upgraded to avast! Mobile Premium for access to all premium features. avast! Mobile Premium is available for $1.99 per month or $14.99 per year. Download and install on your Android device now.
Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun, and contest information, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.
A few months ago, Google announced a new feature in Android. Version 4.2 Jelly Bean has an integrated real-time app scan which should be able to check if applications you install are clean or malicious. But is this enough? Sleazy Android app developers continue to sneak their fake apps by the Google Play gatekeepers. These guys rip off popular apps in an attempt to fool unsuspecting users.
“In the start of this week, Google released a few applications from a developer called GILBERT8332 which pretend they are legitimate applications. Between these applications you can find quite common games such as The Sims 3, Asphalt 6, Ninjago Lego and so on. And compared to original developers they are free,” said Filip Chytrý, a researcher from Avast Virus Lab.
The common result of downloading a bogus app is that personal information like your email address and mobile phone number are stolen and you are served an unending stream of spam and unwelcome offers.
Chytrý warns, “When you download them and install in your android device you will be surprised. All of them are malware. They all start quite innocently with a license agreement of AirPush advert. (AirPush is a advert system which allows to show advertisement in notification bar of your Android device.)”
“And then the funny parts come up. The Game will ask you if you want to change your main page in browser and put a search icon on desktop. Even if you decline, it’s too late. Your browser is already changed for another search page and your device is filled with uncomfortable adverts and as a bonus, the device will send personal information to a third party,” said Chytrý.
Block fake apps
avast! Free Mobile Security blocks fake apps and our new signature targeting protects you against
malware distributed with them. Our popular anti-virus/anti-theft app for Android stops downloads of fake apps and games, so you won’t be duped.
“All of these apps use multiple advert services, steal your personal data and they even are hidden under different creators. But don’t worry. Avast detects all of the mentioned applications as Android:FakeInst-DL, and urls of fake searchers are blocked also,” said Chytrý.
Get avast! Free Mobile Security for your Android device from Google Play. Please add a review and share with your friends if you like it!
Lots of smartphone users are still unaware of the actual risks arising from the use of smartphones based on operating systems, and they have a tendency to underestimate their security risks. Be honest, how many of you check if an application you install on your phone comes from a trusted source? Do you check which permissions the applications has? How many of you install applications that have “cool icons” and don’t check anything else?
I’ve asked a few people these questions, and was totally surprised by their answers! Even IT geeks don’t read permissions of applications and they just click and install whatever they find. What’s WORSE is that most of them think they are secured without any security application.
Do you remember my last article? We identified something very similar, also coming from blog and upload services such as 4shared. It’s really strange how many hijacked and infected applications are offered through those services.
One month ago, I pointed out a really nasty malware that pretends to be a Google Play app. I looked into what the creators of that malware have been doing for the last month. They definitely haven’t been lazy.
For the last two weeks, we saw more mutations of similar malware, with similar behavior. It sends numerous paid SMS messages to premium numbers without the user being aware of it. They try to pretend it is some kind of wanted application, but you obviously don’t want that.
This malware hide themselves under legitimate-sounding names like Flash Player, Talking Tom Cat, Kaspersky Lite, etc. But many of the apps have something in common: The package name is the same in hundreds of them. But don’t worry, all of them are detected.
My phone is infected! What can I do?
This leads me to the most important point of this blog post. For those who still believe they are fine without antivirus protection on their smartphone, there are a few steps to follow when you realize your phone is acting strangely.
1) Switch off GSM module or take out your SIM card immediately. (This should disconnect your phone from the mobile network and prevent losing your money.)
2) Restore your phone back to factory setup. (Malware should be removed, as well as all your data.)
3) Put your SIM card back, and you can use your phone again.
Is there a safer and easier way to protect my smartphone?
Luckily, yes. Malware that we meet comes mostly from untrusted sources. People often put the name of a wanted application in their browser and just click on the first URL that comes up. That practice is, of course, really dangerous. The viruses mentioned above come from file sharing servers such as 4shared.com, filestube.com, rapidshare.com, fake blogs, or from fake Android stores. Those file sharing servers are suspicious sources and one should not download applications from there. Even on Google Play you can find a dangerous application once in a while, so you should be cautious even when you look for applications there!
Here’s a quick example. When you search for popular games, for example, “Asphalt 6 adrenaline скачать бесплатно” (free download in Russian language) in one of the top pages on Google you will find a pretty nasty blog full of repacked games but with a small gift in the form of a malware.
My recommendation is to use an antivirus program on your phone – for example, avast! Free Mobile Security – and download applications from less dangerous sources – for example, Google Play, Amazon.com, etc.
Android is one of the fastest growing platforms in the world. In the second quarter of this year there were more than 300 million active Android devices. The increase is almost 900,000 of new devices per day and still rising. These days Android occupies more than 60% of the mobile devices market! By the way there is around 300,000 newborn children a day all around the world, and this number constantly decreases.
Hand in hand with this trend goes the rise of applications and viruses for this platform. In the past week we noticed one of them that was especially tricky. At first look, it’s trying to act like a regular Google Play application, but that’s just an illusion. It is a fake application which not only downloads other fraudulent application, but it is also able to send premium text messages without user’s knowledge
After the installation it replaces the original Google Play from the menu and just waits for a first start from the user.
Immediately after the first start you are asked to update the program and there your troubles continue “Critical update, install new version, click the continue”.
After this step follows another nasty download from this link shows up:
After the installation of second aplication, your phone turns into a money sucking machine. Without your knowledge it starts sending premium messages on paid numbers. Luckily we caught this threat and Avast! detects both samples as Android:OpFake-BV.
This file is easily accessible from more than thirty malware pages, which are made to resemble various markets and download pages! But no worries Avast! users are protected even if you accidentally visit these pages.