Researchers have discovered a new Android app called “System Update” that is a sophisticated Remote-Access Trojan (RAT). From a news article:
The broad range of data that this sneaky little bastard is capable of stealing is pretty horrifying. It includes: instant messenger messages and database files; call logs and phone contacts; Whatsapp messages and databases; pictures and videos; all of your text messages; and information on pretty much everything else that is on your phone (it will inventory the rest of the apps on your phone, for instance).
The app can also monitor your GPS location (so it knows exactly where you are), hijack your phone’s camera to take pictures, review your browser’s search history and bookmarks, and turn on the phone mic to record audio.
The app’s spying capabilities are triggered whenever the device receives new information. Researchers write that the RAT is constantly on the lookout for “any activity of interest, such as a phone call, to immediately record the conversation, collect the updated call log, and then upload the contents to the C&C server as an encrypted ZIP file.” After thieving your data, the app will subsequently erase evidence of its own activity, hiding what it has been doing.
This is a sophisticated piece of malware. It feels like the product of a national intelligence agency or — and I think more likely — one of the cyberweapons arms manufacturers that sells this kind of capability to governments around the world.
Posted on March 30, 2021 at 10:00 AM •
Interesting story about a barcode scanner app that has been pushing malware on to Android phones. The app is called Barcode Scanner. It’s been around since 2017 and is owned by the Ukrainian company Lavabird Ldt. But a December 2020 update included some new features:
However, a rash of malicious activity was recently traced back to the app. Users began noticing something weird going on with their phones: their default browsers kept getting hijacked and redirected to random advertisements, seemingly out of nowhere.
Generally, when this sort of thing happens it’s because the app was recently sold. That’s not the case here.
It is frightening that with one update an app can turn malicious while going under the radar of Google Play Protect. It is baffling to me that an app developer with a popular app would turn it into malware. Was this the scheme all along, to have an app lie dormant, waiting to strike after it reaches popularity? I guess we will never know.
Posted on February 16, 2021 at 6:13 AM •
It seems to be the season of sophisticated supply-chain attacks.
This one is in the NoxPlayer Android emulator:
ESET says that based on evidence its researchers gathered, a threat actor compromised one of the company’s official API (api.bignox.com) and file-hosting servers (res06.bignox.com).
Using this access, hackers tampered with the download URL of NoxPlayer updates in the API server to deliver malware to NoxPlayer users.
Despite evidence implying that attackers had access to BigNox servers since at least September 2020, ESET said the threat actor didn’t target all of the company’s users but instead focused on specific machines, suggesting this was a highly-targeted attack looking to infect only a certain class of users.
Until today, and based on its own telemetry, ESET said it spotted malware-laced NoxPlayer updates being delivered to only five victims, located in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka.
I don’t know if there are actually more supply-chain attacks occurring right now. More likely is that they’ve been happening for a while, and we have recently become more diligent about looking for them.
Posted on February 8, 2021 at 6:34 AM •
Security researcher Ahmed Hassan has shown that spoofing the Android’s “People Nearby” feature allows him to pinpoint the physical location of Telegram users:
Using readily available software and a rooted Android device, he’s able to spoof the location his device reports to Telegram servers. By using just three different locations and measuring the corresponding distance reported by People Nearby, he is able to pinpoint a user’s precise location.
A proof-of-concept video the researcher sent to Telegram showed how he could discern the address of a People Nearby user when he used a free GPS spoofing app to make his phone report just three different locations. He then drew a circle around each of the three locations with a radius of the distance reported by Telegram. The user’s precise location was where all three intersected.
Fixing the problem — or at least making it much harder to exploit it — wouldn’t be hard from a technical perspective. Rounding locations to the nearest mile and adding some random bits generally suffices. When the Tinder app had a similar disclosure vulnerability, developers used this kind of technique to fix it.
Posted on January 14, 2021 at 6:08 AM •
The New York Times wrote about a still-unreleased report from Check Point and the Miaan Group:
The reports, which were reviewed by The New York Times in advance of their release, say that the hackers have successfully infiltrated what were thought to be secure mobile phones and computers belonging to the targets, overcoming obstacles created by encrypted applications such as Telegram and, according to Miaan, even gaining access to information on WhatsApp. Both are popular messaging tools in Iran. The hackers also have created malware disguised as Android applications, the reports said.
It looks like the standard technique of getting the victim to open a document or application.
Posted on September 24, 2020 at 6:18 AM •
Google has removed 25 Android apps from its store because they steal Facebook credentials:
Before being taken down, the 25 apps were collectively downloaded more than 2.34 million times.
The malicious apps were developed by the same threat group and despite offering different features, under the hood, all the apps worked the same.
According to a report from French cyber-security firm Evina shared with ZDNet today, the apps posed as step counters, image editors, video editors, wallpaper apps, flashlight applications, file managers, and mobile games.
The apps offered a legitimate functionality, but they also contained malicious code. Evina researchers say the apps contained code that detected what app a user recently opened and had in the phone’s foreground.
Posted on June 30, 2020 at 10:15 AM •
This is interesting:
The image, a seemingly innocuous sunset (or dawn) sky above placid waters, may be viewed without harm. But if loaded as wallpaper, the phone will crash.
The fault does not appear to have been maliciously created. Rather, according to developers following Ice Universe’s Twitter thread, the problem lies in the way color space is handled by the Android OS.
The image was created using the RGB color space to display image hues, while Android 10 uses the sRGB color space protocol, according to 9to5Google contributor Dylan Roussel. When the Android phone cannot properly convert the Adobe RGB image, it crashes.
Posted on June 3, 2020 at 6:11 AM •
I previously wrote about hacking voice assistants with lasers. Turns you can do much the same thing with ultrasonic waves:
Voice assistants — the demo targeted Siri, Google Assistant, and Bixby — are designed to respond when they detect the owner’s voice after noticing a trigger phrase such as ‘Ok, Google’.
Ultimately, commands are just sound waves, which other researchers have already shown can be emulated using ultrasonic waves which humans can’t hear, providing an attacker has a line of sight on the device and the distance is short.
What SurfingAttack adds to this is the ability to send the ultrasonic commands through a solid glass or wood table on which the smartphone was sitting using a circular piezoelectric disc connected to its underside.
Although the distance was only 43cm (17 inches), hiding the disc under a surface represents a more plausible, easier-to-conceal attack method than previous techniques.
Research paper. Demonstration video.
Posted on March 23, 2020 at 6:19 AM •
This paper describes the flaws in the Voatz Internet voting app: “The Ballot is Busted Before the Blockchain: A Security Analysis of Voatz, the First Internet Voting Application Used in U.S. Federal Elections.”
Abstract: In the 2018 midterm elections, West Virginia became the first state in the U.S. to allow select voters to cast their ballot on a mobile phone via a proprietary app called “Voatz.” Although there is no public formal description of Voatz’s security model, the company claims that election security and integrity are maintained through the use of a permissioned blockchain, biometrics, a mixnet, and hardware-backed key storage modules on the user’s device. In this work, we present the first public security analysis of Voatz, based on a reverse engineering of their Android application and the minimal available documentation of the system. We performed a clean-room reimplementation of Voatz’s server and present an analysis of the election process as visible from the app itself.
We find that Voatz has vulnerabilities that allow different kinds of adversaries to alter, stop, or expose a user’s vote,including a sidechannel attack in which a completely passive network adversary can potentially recover a user’s secret ballot. We additionally find that Voatz has a number of privacy issues stemming from their use of third party services for crucial app functionality. Our findings serve as a concrete illustration of the common wisdom against Internet voting,and of the importance of transparency to the legitimacy of elections.
The company’s response is a perfect illustration of why non-computer non-security companies have no idea what they’re doing, and should not be trusted with any form of security.
EDITED TO ADD (3/11): The researchers respond to Voatz’s response.
Posted on February 17, 2020 at 6:35 AM •
Researchers have discovered and revealed 146 vulnerabilities in various incarnations of Android smartphone firmware. The vulnerabilities were found by scanning the phones of 29 different Android makers, and each is unique to a particular phone or maker. They were found using automatic tools, and it is extremely likely that many of the vulnerabilities are not exploitable — making them bugs but not security concerns. There is no indication that any of these vulnerabilities were put there on purpose, although it is reasonable to assume that other organizations do this same sort of scanning and use the findings for attack. And since they’re firmware bugs, in many cases there is no ability to patch them.
I see this as yet another demonstration of how hard supply chain security is.
Posted on November 18, 2019 at 6:33 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.