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New Attack Uses Attackers' Own Ad Network To Deliver Android Malware 59

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
Trailrunner7 writes "The concept of malware riding shotgun with legitimate mobile apps is not a new one. There have been a slew of cases in which attackers have compromised apps in the Google Play store and inserted malware into the file. But a new attack uncovered by Palo Alto Networks is using a new technique that starts with the user installing an app on her Android phone. The app could be a legitimate one or a malicious one, but it will include some code that, once the app is installed, will reach out to an ad network. Many apps include such code for legitimate ad revenue purposes, but these apps are connecting to a malicious ad network. Once the connection is made, the app will then wait until the user is trying to install another app and will pop up an extra dialog box asking for permission to install some extra code. That code is where the bad things lie. The malicious code immediately gains control of the phone's SMS app for both command and control and in order to sign the victim up for some premium-rate SMS services. The attack is interesting, said Wade Williamson, a senior security analyst at Palo Alto, because the attackers can use a legitimate ad network that's already connected to a group of apps and then at any given time flip the switch and begin using it for malicious purposes."
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New Attack Uses Attackers' Own Ad Network To Deliver Android Malware

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  • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Monday August 12, 2013 @04:56PM (#44546023) Homepage Journal

    The app could be a legitimate one or a malicious one, but it will include some code that, once the app is installed, will reach out to an ad network. Many apps include such code for legitimate ad revenue purposes, but these apps are connecting to a malicious ad network.

    Inotherwords "but it has malware in it for the ad portion that goes to a malicious ad network" - or the app IS malicious and not legitimate. An app isn't magically legitimate if only some portions of it are malware.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday August 12, 2013 @05:00PM (#44546067) Homepage Journal

      The app could be a legitimate one or a malicious one, but it will include some code that, once the app is installed, will reach out to an ad network. Many apps include such code for legitimate ad revenue purposes, but these apps are connecting to a malicious ad network.

      Inotherwords "but it has malware in it for the ad portion that goes to a malicious ad network" - or the app IS malicious and not legitimate. An app isn't magically legitimate if only some portions of it are malware.

      "Sometimes is difficult differentiate between Stupidware and Malware - Stupidware being sloppily written, which allows attacks and Malware which was purposefully written to allow attacks. Both date back at least a decade. That it's happening on a mobile device is simply a logical iteration of a predictable progression, Captain."

      "That ... still ... does not fix the ... communicator, Spock."

  • Android (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 12, 2013 @04:57PM (#44546039)

    The only unix-based platform riddled with security issues, viruses and trojans problems.

    • oh the unix like part is fine it is the Java vm that like in many other software stacks is the root of the problem.

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      Out of curiosity, has anyone here actually run into any Android malware? Most of the people I know have been using Android for quite some time and nobody has encountered any (but they do tend to tick to the Play or Amazon stores).

  • Yet another good reason to avoid ads, and ignore those you can't avoid.

  • cross-site attacks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday August 12, 2013 @05:10PM (#44546159)

    Advertising on the internet is the most common route for malware by far. That's why I install ad blocking software everywhere. Marketers whine and complain about lost revenue and try to guilt you by saying they need that revenue to run the sites "for free"... but the truth is the way most advertising networks operate allow for "dancing, singing" ads -- that is, injectable javascript. Everything in the marketer's world these days is about using java to track, probe, manipulate, etc., web pages, with pop-overs, pop-unders, drive-bys, side to side scrollers, sound, motion, and anything else to get your attention.

    None of this would be a problem if they stuck to fixed-size IMG tags and graphics. In other words... marketing is a virus. It's the plague. It's not the browser's fault... it's these asshole profiteers who try to be endlessly creative in force-feeding people crap they don't want.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's true. Adblock+ is security software. Much better than any firewall or AV package I might ad.

      Ad vendors are scum and often lack diligence. Why? Because money that's why.

      Ad networks are vulnerable and are frequently hijacked because one ad network reaches out to a huge attack surface. (You get to touch every single user on every web page that that ad network uses)

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Advertising on the internet is the most common route for malware by far. That's why I install ad blocking software everywhere. Marketers whine and complain about lost revenue and try to guilt you by saying they need that revenue to run the sites "for free"... but the truth is the way most advertising networks operate allow for "dancing, singing" ads -- that is, injectable javascript. Everything in the marketer's world these days is about using java to track, probe, manipulate, etc., web pages, with pop-over

      • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday August 12, 2013 @06:26PM (#44546829)

        Except well, how do you expect developers to eat?

        I suppose the same way everyone else does: By providing a good or service in exchange for monentary compensation. I know, it's an outmodded concept in the Web 2.0 way of thinking... but There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Advertising is not required for the survival of the species nor is its absence detrimental to long-term economic growth and stability.

        Remember, the ad is loaded by the app, and given Android's fairly limited ways of monetization, developers would like to make some money back. If not through a 4rd party ad network, then through siphoning your user data off the phone to their servers.

        I would ask you whether Linux requires monetization of its applications in order to be useful, or that developers are not compensated in other ways. Short answer: Yes.

        Ads pretty much the only way to beat iOS at the revenue game.

        Call me old fashioned, but the way to beat someone at a game is to play it better than they do. It's called competition, and if you provide a better product or service, then in a fair and open market, you should win. If this isn't true, then the problem is with the market, your perception of it, or with external forces.

      • Value my friend, value. If the app is paid but is useful, does the job properly, are reasonably priced and easy to pay, people buy . Basic Economics 101, lesson that most CEOs and "I want easy money NOW" do not go.
      • by sjames (1099)

        Find a way to display tasteful ads responsibly?

  • The Matrix (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Monday August 12, 2013 @05:18PM (#44546241)

    Marketing is a disease, a cancer of the Web, it is a plague, and blocking software is the cure.

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Monday August 12, 2013 @05:32PM (#44546373)
    > the app will then wait until the user is trying to install another app and will pop up an extra dialog box asking for permission

    A couple of weeks ago when I described this attack, some commenters said it was impossible - an app can't wait until the user was expecting a permission prompt from a different app, then request more permissions itself, they said.

    I wonder if they still think it's impossible now that it's publicly reported to be in the wild.
    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      So Android apps aren't in a sandbox? Why does an app get a notification that another app is being installed AT ALL?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I avoid ads totally (especially malscripted ones) via hosts files:

    ---

    APK Hosts File Engine 9.0++ 32/64-bit:

    http://start64.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5851:apk-hosts-file-engine-64bit-version&catid=26:64bit-security-software&Itemid=74 [start64.com]

    ---

    Yes, even on an android smartphone

    (Via ADB/Android Debugging Bridge & its PULL command, but use smaller optimized hosts there folks - not much room, shitty caching (sorry google, it's true)).

    As long as attacks = host-domain name based

  • ... in order to sign the victim up for some premium-rate SMS services.

    The fuck?

    Why the hell doesn't the FTC shut these companies down? Why doesn't the FCC kick the carrier's behind into policing these companies better? Why doesn't the US attorney's office rain hellfire and brimstone down on these companies to the extent it did to Aaron Schwartz?

    Premium SMS is billed through the carriers, so they have a relationship with the SMS company. There is a clear money trail. The recipient is most likely incorporated. This should be easy.

    With all the US mistrust of government right now

  • Good thing I have sprint, I never get any signal for the virus to send SMS messages, and forget about signing up for any services (useful or not). :/

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W. K. Clifford, British philosopher, circa 1876

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