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The Hacker News - Cybersecurity News and Analysis: Google Play Store

Joker Malware Apps Once Again Bypass Google's Security to Spread via Play Store

Joker Malware Apps Once Again Bypass Google's Security to Spread via Play Store
July 09, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers took the wraps off yet another instance of Android malware hidden under the guise of legitimate applications to stealthily subscribe unsuspecting users for premium services without their knowledge. In a report published by Check Point research today, the malware — infamously called Joker (or Bread) — has found another trick to bypass Google's Play Store protections: obfuscate the malicious DEX executable inside the application as Base64 encoded strings, which are then decoded and loaded on the compromised device. Following responsible disclosure by Check Point researchers, the 11 apps ( list and hashes here ) in question were removed by Google from the Play Store on April 30, 2020. "The Joker malware is tricky to detect, despite Google's investment in adding Play Store protections," said Check Point 's Aviran Hazum, who identified the new modus operandi of Joker malware. "Although Google removed the malicious apps from the P

Google Bans 600 Android Apps from Play Store for Serving Disruptive Ads

Google Bans 600 Android Apps from Play Store for Serving Disruptive Ads
February 21, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Google has banned nearly 600 Android apps from the Play Store for bombarding users with disruptive ads and violating its advertising guidelines. The company categorizes disruptive ads as "ads that are displayed to users in unexpected ways, including impairing or interfering with the usability of device functions," such as a full-screen ad served when attempting to make a phone call. Although Google didn't name the specific apps in question, many of the apps — which had been installed more than 4.5 billion times — primarily targeted English-speaking users and were mainly from developers based in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India, according to Buzzfeed News. Highlighting that malicious developers are getting "more savvy in deploying and masking disruptive ads," the company said it has developed new counter mechanisms to detect such behavior. Trouble in Google Play Store This is not the first time adware apps have been removed from the Google P

WARNING — Malware Found in CamScanner Android App With 100+ Million Users

WARNING — Malware Found in CamScanner Android App With 100+ Million Users
August 27, 2019Swati Khandelwal
Beware! Attackers can remotely hijack your Android device and steal data stored on it, if you are using free version of  CamScanner , a highly-popular Phone PDF creator app with more than 100 million downloads on Google Play Store. So, to be safe, just uninstall the CamScanner app from your Android device now, as Google has already removed the app from its official Play Store. Unfortunately, CamScanner has recently gone rogue as researchers found a hidden Trojan Dropper module within the app that could allow remote attackers to secretly download and install malicious program on users' Android devices without their knowledge. However, the malicious module doesn't actually reside in the code of CamScanner Android app itself; instead, it is part of a 3rd-party advertising library that recently was introduced in the PDF creator app. Discovered by Kaspersky security researchers, the issue came to light after many CamScanner users spotted suspicious behavior and posted neg

New Malware Replaced Legit Android Apps With Fake Ones On 25 Million Devices

New Malware Replaced Legit Android Apps With Fake Ones On 25 Million Devices
July 11, 2019Swati Khandelwal
Are you sure the WhatsApp app you are using on your Android device is legitimate, even if it's working perfectly as intended? ...Or the JioTV, AppLock, HotStar, Flipkart, Opera Mini or Truecaller app—if you have installed any of these? I'm asking this because cybersecurity researchers just yesterday revealed eye-opening details about a widespread Android malware campaign wherein attackers silently replaced installed legitimate apps with their malicious versions on nearly 25 million mobile phones. Now the important question here is how they're doing it and why? According to researchers at Check Point, attackers are distributing a new kind of Android malware that disguises itself as innocent-looking photo editing, adult entertainment, or gaming apps and available through widely used third-party app stores. Dubbed Agent Smith , the malware takes advantage of multiple Android vulnerabilities, such as the  Janus flaw and the Man-in-the-Disk flaw , and injects malic

Tor Browser for Android — First Official App Released On Play Store

Tor Browser for Android — First Official App Released On Play Store
May 23, 2019Wang Wei
Wohooo! Great news for privacy-focused users. Tor Browser, the most popular privacy-focused browser, for Android is finally out of beta, and the first stable version has now arrived on Google Play Store for anyone to download. The Tor Project announced Tuesday the first official stable release of its ultra-secure internet browser for Android devices, Tor Browser 8.5 —which you can now download for FREE on your mobile devices from Google Play Store. Tor Browser is mostly used by privacy-focused people, activists, journalists, and even cyber criminal gangs to avoid government monitoring. It allows users to browse the Internet anonymously, by hiding their IP addresses and identity, through a network of encrypted servers that bounce their web requests around multiple intermediate links. Access to Tor anonymity network was previously available on Android mobile operating system only through other apps or browsers like Orbot / Orfox app, but you can now use the official Tor Brow

New Android Malware Apps Use Motion Sensor to Evade Detection

New Android Malware Apps Use Motion Sensor to Evade Detection
January 18, 2019Mohit Kumar
Even after so many efforts by Google for preventing its Play Store from malware, shady apps somehow managed to fool its anti-malware protections and get into its service to infect Android users with malware. Two such Android apps have recently been spotted on the Google Play Store by security researchers with the Trend Micro malware research team, infecting thousands of Android users who have already downloaded them with banking malware. The apps in question masquerade as a currency exchange app called Currency Converter and battery saver app called BatterySaverMobi , and are using motion-sensor inputs of infected Android devices to monitor them before installing a dangerous banking Trojan called Anubis. The malicious Android apps, with a large number of fake five-star reviews, use this clever trick instead of traditional evasion techniques in order to avoid detection when researchers run emulators (which are less likely to use sensors) to detect such malicious apps. &quo

Google Removes 85 Adware Apps That Infect 9 Million Android Users

Google Removes 85 Adware Apps That Infect 9 Million Android Users
January 09, 2019Swati Khandelwal
Google has removed 85 apps from its Play Store after finding out that they were pushing aggressive, full-screen adware to Android users. With the rise in the mobile market, Adware has become one of the most prevalent mobile threats in the world. Adware has traditionally been used to aggressively push ads like banners or pop-ups on mobile screens to make money for its makers. The now-removed 85 apps in question disguised as games, streaming TV, and remote control simulator apps in the Google Play store and had collectively been installed by nine million users all over the world. Researchers from cyber security company Trend Micro spotted these apps which has the ability to bombard user devices with full-screen advertisements at regular intervals or when users unlock their device by monitoring their screen unlocking functionality. The apps can display ads even when you are not browsing the internet, hide themselves and run in the background on infected devices. The most popul

Google Will Charge Android Phone Makers to Use Its Apps In Europe

Google Will Charge Android Phone Makers to Use Its Apps In Europe
October 17, 2018Mohit Kumar
Would you prefer purchasing an Android device that doesn't have any apps or services from Google? No Google Maps, No Gmail, No YouTube! And NOT even the Google Play Store—from where you could have installed any Android apps you want Because if you live in Europe, from now on, you have to spend some extra cash on a smartphone with built-in Google services, which were otherwise until now freely available and already included in the cost of your smartphone. For the very first time, Google has announced its plans to charge a fee to European Android phone manufacturers who want to include a free version of Google apps on their Android handsets. In short, Android phone makers will now have to pay Google for installing the Play store, Gmail, YouTube, Maps, and Chrome, that are usually considered to be core parts of the Android operating system, but are actually Google services. "Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us

Fortnite APK Download for Android Won't Be Available on Google Play Store

Fortnite APK Download for Android Won't Be Available on Google Play Store
August 06, 2018Swati Khandelwal
There's both good news and bad news for Fortnite game lovers. Fortnite, one of the most popular games in the world right now, is coming to Android devices very soon, but players would not be able to download Fortnite APK from the Google Play Store. Instead, Epic Games software development company has confirmed the Fortnite APK for Android will be available for download exclusively only through its official website, bypassing the Google Play Store. Why Fortnite for Android Bypassing Google Play Store? Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney cites two main reasons for this decision. First, offering Fortnite APK downloads directly from its official website will allow the company to "have a direct relationship" with its consumers. Second, since Google takes a 30 percent cut of revenue each time a user makes an in-app purchase through its Play Store, the decision will allow the company to save millions. This should not be shocking as Fortnite on iOS made $15 million in j

Google Bans Cryptocurrency Mining Android Apps From the Play Store

Google Bans Cryptocurrency Mining Android Apps From the Play Store
July 27, 2018Mohit Kumar
Following Apple's lead in banning cryptocurrency mining apps , Google has also updated its Play Store policy this week to ban apps that mine cryptocurrencies on users' devices in the background. However, there are countless cryptocurrency mining apps, including MinerGate, AA Miner, NeoNeonMiner, and Crypto Miner, still available on the Play Store. Cryptocurrency mining is not a new concept, but the technology has recently been abused in the past year after hackers found it a great way to make millions of dollars by hijacking PCs to secretly mine cryptocurrency in the background without their users' knowledge or consent. Due to this practice, cryptocurrency mining has emerged as one of the biggest threats , raising negative sentiments towards this alternative revenue scheme, and big tech giants like Apple and Google took strict measures to put restrictions on such apps. Over a month ago, Apple updated its App Store guidelines to ban cryptocurrency mining apps and

Google Solves Update Issue for Android Apps Installed from Unknown Sources

Google Solves Update Issue for Android Apps Installed from Unknown Sources
June 21, 2018Swati Khandelwal
If you are wondering how to receive latest updates for an Android app—installed via a 3rd party source or peer-to-peer app sharing—directly from Google Play Store. For security reasons, until now apps installed from third-party sources cannot be updated automatically over-the-air, as Google does not recognize them as Play Store apps and they do not show up in your Google account app list as well. Late last year, Google announced its plan to set up an automated mechanism to verify the authenticity of an app by adding a small amount of security metadata on top of each Android application package (in the APK Signing Block) distributed by its Play Store. This metadata is like a digital signature that would help your Android device to verify if the origin of an app you have installed from a third-party source is a Play Store app and have not been tempered, for example, a virus is not attached to it. From early 2018, Google has already started implementing this mechanism, which doesn

Password Stealing Apps With Over A Million Downloads Found On Google Play Store

Password Stealing Apps With Over A Million Downloads Found On Google Play Store
December 13, 2017Swati Khandelwal
Even after so many efforts by Google like launching bug bounty program and preventing apps from using Android accessibility services , malicious applications somehow manage to get into Play Store and infect people with malicious software. The same happened once again when security researchers discovered at least 85 applications in Google Play Store that were designed to steal credentials from users of Russian-based social network VK.com and were successfully downloaded millions of times. The most popular of all masqueraded as a gaming app with more than a million downloads. When this app was initially submitted in March 2017, it was just a gaming app without any malicious code, according to a blog post published Tuesday by Kaspersky Lab. However, after waiting for more than seven months, the malicious actors behind the app updated it with information-stealing capabilities in October 2017. Besides this gaming app, the Kaspersky researchers found 84 such apps on Google Play

BankBot Returns On Play Store – A Never Ending Android Malware Story

BankBot Returns On Play Store – A Never Ending Android Malware Story
November 20, 2017Mohit Kumar
Even after so many efforts by Google for making its Play Store away from malware, shady apps somehow managed to fool its anti-malware protections and infect people with malicious software. A team of researchers from several security firms has uncovered two new malware campaigns targeting Google Play Store users, of which one spreads a new version of BankBot , a persistent family of banking Trojan that imitates real banking applications in efforts to steal users' login details. BankBot has been designed to display fake overlays on legitimate bank apps from major banks around the world, including Citibank, WellsFargo, Chase, and DiBa, to steal sensitive information, including logins and credit card details. With its primary purpose of displaying fake overlays, BankBot has the ability to perform a broad range of tasks, such as sending and intercepting SMS messages, making calls, tracking infected devices, and stealing contacts. Google removed at least four previous versions

Google Begins Removing Play Store Apps Misusing Android Accessibility Services

Google Begins Removing Play Store Apps Misusing Android Accessibility Services
November 14, 2017Swati Khandelwal
Due to rise in malware and adware abusing Android accessibility services, Google has finally decided to take strict steps against the apps on its app platform that misuse this feature. Google has emailed Android app developers informing them that within 30 days, they must show how accessibility code used in their apps is helping disabled users or their apps will be removed from its Play Store entirely. For those who are unaware, Android's accessibility services are meant to help disabled people interact with their smartphone devices ( such as automatically filling out forms, overlaying content or switching between apps ) by allowing app-makers to integrate verbal feedback, voice commands and more in their apps. Many popular Android apps use the accessibility API to legitimately provide users with benefits, but over the past few months, we have seen a series of malware, including DoubleLocker ransomware, Svpeng , and BankBot , misusing this feature to infect people. Re

Fake WhatsApp On Google Play Store Downloaded By Over 1 Million Android Users

Fake WhatsApp On Google Play Store Downloaded By Over 1 Million Android Users
November 03, 2017Swati Khandelwal
Cybercriminals are known to take advantage of everything that's popular among people in order to spread malware, and Google's official Play Store has always proved no less than an excellent place for hackers to get their job done. Yesterday some users spotted a fake version of the most popular WhatsApp messaging app for Android on the official Google Play Store that has already tricked more than one million users into downloading it. Dubbed Update WhatsApp Messenger , came from an app developer who pretended to be the actual WhatsApp service with the developer title "WhatsApp Inc."—the same title the actual WhatsApp messenger uses on Google Play. You might be wondering how the sneaky app developer was able to use the same title as the legitimate Facebook-owned maker of the messaging client—thanks to a Unicode character space. The app maker added a Unicode character space after the actual WhatsApp Inc. name, which in computer code reads WhatsApp+Inc%C2%A0 .

Google Play Store Launches Bug Bounty Program to Protect Popular Android Apps

Google Play Store Launches Bug Bounty Program to Protect Popular Android Apps
October 19, 2017Swati Khandelwal
Better late than never. Google has finally launched a bug bounty program for Android apps on Google Play Store, inviting security researchers to find and report vulnerabilities in some of the most popular Android apps. Dubbed " Google Play Security Reward ," the bug bounty program offers security researchers to work directly with Android app developers to find and fix vulnerabilities in their apps, for which Google will pay $1000 in rewards. "The goal of the program is to further improve app security which will benefit developers, Android users, and the entire Google Play ecosystem," the technology giant says in a blog post published today. Google has collaborated with bug bounty platform, HackerOne, to manage backend for this program, like submitting reports and inviting white-hat hackers and researchers. White-hat hackers who wish to participate can submit their findings directly to the app developers. Once the security vulnerability has been resolved, th

Yet Another Android Malware Infects Over 4.2 Million Google Play Store Users

Yet Another Android Malware Infects Over 4.2 Million Google Play Store Users
September 15, 2017Swati Khandelwal
Even after so many efforts by Google, malicious apps somehow managed to fool its Play Store's anti-malware protections and infect people with malicious software. The same happened once again when at least 50 apps managed to make its way onto Google Play Store and were successfully downloaded as many as 4.2 million times—one of the biggest malware outbreaks. Security firm Check Point on Thursday published a blog post revealing at least 50 Android apps that were free to download on official Play Store and were downloaded between 1 million and 4.2 million times before Google removed them. These Android apps come with hidden malware payload that secretly registers victims for paid online services, sends fraudulent premium text messages from victims' smartphones and leaves them to pay the bill—all without the knowledge or permission of users. Dubbed ExpensiveWall by Check Point researchers because it was found in the Lovely Wallpaper app, the malware comes hidden in fre

More than 1,000 Spyware Apps Found On Android App Stores

More than 1,000 Spyware Apps Found On Android App Stores
August 11, 2017Swati Khandelwal
If you think you are downloading apps from Google Play Store and you are secure, then watch out! Someone has managed to flood third-party app stores and Google Play Store with more than a thousand malicious apps, which can monitor almost anything a user does on their mobile device from silently recording calls to make outbound calls without the user's interaction. Dubbed SonicSpy , the spyware has been spreading aggressively across Android app stores since at least February and is being distributed by pretending itself to be a messaging app—and it actually offers a messaging service. SonicSpy Can Perform a Whole Lots of Malicious Tasks At the same time, the SonicSpy spyware apps perform various malicious tasks, including silently recording calls and audio from the microphone, hijacking the device's camera and snap photos, making outbound calls without the user's permission, and sending text messages to numbers chosen by the attacker. Besides this, the SonicSpy sp
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