Some Google Play Store Apps are Planting Malware

  • By Patrick Ryan
  • Aug 04, 2022

The average person downloads Android apps from the Google Play Store without a second thought. However, more than a dozen such apps are planting malware on phones after download.

How Does the Campaign Work?

The campaign uses the Android dropper apps within the Google Play Store. The dropper apps essentially poison smartphones with malware. More specifically, the malware used in the attack is best described as banking malware.

How Many Dropper Apps are Used?

All in all, hackers are using 17 dropper apps. Those dropper apps as a whole are referred to as DawDropper. Hackers concealed these apps as apps meant to serve a function or enhance productivity. Smartphone users thought they were downloading call recording apps, apps for VPN services, QR code reading apps, and document scanning tools. Yet, they were actually downloading apps laden with banking malware.

What, Exactly, do the Droppers Do?

Droppers are apps that bypass the security analysis of the Google Play Store and download especially harmful malware. DawDropper relies on a third-party cloud service referred to as Firebase Realtime Database to evade detection, triggering the securing of a payload download address.

DawDropper also hosts harmful payloads by way of GitHub to boot. The malware attack chains forge connections with the aforementioned Firebase Realtime Database to obtain the URL required for the dangerous APK file download.

Are the Banking Droppers the Same as Those Previously Used?

The banking droppers described above in the attack are not the same as those of yesteryear. Nor are the banking droppers used in the attack the same ones used by hackers at the beginning of the year. Digital miscreants have shifted away from payload download addresses that are hard-coded and moved toward hiding the address that hosts the malware through an intermediary.

Some of those who post on hacking forums insist their droppers have the potential to make it easier for other digital criminals to transmit malware through the Google Play Store, creating a DaaS attack strategy. DaaS is short for dropper-as-a-service.

Are any of the Droppers Especially Noteworthy?

Zscaler recently identified a dropper within the Unicc QR Scanner app previously used to transmit a banking trojan dubbed Coper. The trojan is an alternate version of the mobile malware called exobot.

What is an Example of How the Malware Can Impact a Smartphone?

Let's take a quick look at the Octo malware dropper used in the attack. Octo can completely disable the defensive barrier that is Google Play Protect. Octo records a target's screen with VNC, short for virtual network computing. The recording session captures potentially valuable information, from PIN codes to passwords, email addresses, and banking login details. The data captured by the malware is then transmitted to a remote server.

Once the data is secured away from the original location, the process of preparing it for sale on the dark web or another black market commences. The end result of the Android app malware is identity theft. You can do your part to safeguard the investment you've made in your computer by updating your digital security protections today.

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