The Google Play Store has witnessed a sudden flow of malware-infested apps in the recent past. These phenomena had its impact to the extent that four separate security companies have reported —or are preparing to release reports— on malware campaigns currently underway via Android apps available in the Play Store.
So the reports published by Dr.Web, Malwarebytes, and McAfee reveal the presence of three new Android malware families hidden in games and apps uploaded on the Play Store.
Grabos pushes fake notifications for app installs:
Based on the details included in the reports, the most complex and widespread threat is the Grabos malware, identified by the McAfee researchers.
Furter the McAfee team discusses that it had identified 144 Play Store apps containing this new threat, and in most cases disguised as audio players and apps for downloading MP3 music files.
Also, based on statistics from 34 of the 144 apps, McAfee says the malicious applications have been downloaded between 4.2 million and 17.4 million times.
Grabos’ main purpose is to show fake notifications on infected devices that trick users into downloading and installing other apps. Based on its mode of operation, it is fair to believe that the operators are using Grabos to gain revenue as part of a pay-per-app-install scheme.
AsiaHitGroup targets Asian users only:
Might sound interesting but the second Android malware to be discovered by security researchers was from Malwarebytes, which they named AsiaHitGroup because it uses an IP address that blacklists to target only users in Asian countries.
Now, this AsiaHitGroup was initially found in a QR scanner app named “Qr code generator – Qr scanner” that was also available through the Play Store.
On infected devices, the AsiaHitGroup malware would download second-stage threat, i.e. an SMS trojan, whose main functionality is to subscribe users to premium phone numbers via SMS.
Malwarebytes also added that it found AsiaHitGroup in other apps besides the QR code scanner, such as an alarm clock app, a compass app, a photo editor app, an Internet speed test app, and a file explorer app, but the company did not reveal these apps’ names, nor did it say if Google had removed any of the malicious apps at the time of writing about this entire thing.
Android adware loads websites in a hidden browser:
The third impact by Google Play Store had been documented by Dr.Web, explaining about an adware strain the company identified as Android.RemoteCode.106.origin.
Researchers have found this trojan in nine Play Store apps that had been downloaded between 2.37 million and 11.7 million times.
After users have installed any of the tainted apps, they would open a website in a hidden WebView (browser) component. This process artificially boosted a website’s traffic numbers and helped some site operators make money from ad impressions.
Dr.Web regarded that it informed Google of the malicious apps, and some, but not all have updated their code to remove the malicious behavior. Dr.Web has also presented a list of the nine apps in their report.
Three-stage Android malware hits Play Store:
Lastly, ESET researchers have also uncovered this fourth malware campaign on the Play Store.
As per the latest report published, ESET has detected eight apps infected by a multi-stage Android malware strain that used timed deployments and anti-detection features to stay under the radar and deliver the MazarBot banking trojan on infected devices.
But, Unlike the first three campaigns, this one had affected only tens of thousands of users, mainly because it was caught in its emergent stage.