Malware that runs automatically and hides on Google Play

McAfee’s Mobile Research Team has identified new malware on the Google Play Store. Most of them are disguising themselves as cleaner apps that delete junk files or help optimize their batteries for device management. However, this malware hides and continuously show advertisements to victims. In addition, they run malicious services automatically upon installation without executing the app.

This malware uses the Contact Provider. The Contact Provider is the source of data you see in the device’s contacts application, and you can also access its data in your own application and transfer data between the device and online services. For this, Google provides ContactsContract class. ContactsContract is the contract between the Contacts Provider and applications. In ContactsContract, there is a class called Directory. A Directory represents a contacts corpus and is implemented as a Content Provider with its unique authority. So, developers can use it if they want to implement a custom directory. The Contact Provider can recognize that the app is using a custom directory by checking special metadata in the manifest file. The important thing is the Contact Provider automatically interrogates newly installed or replaced packages. Thus, installing a package containing special metadata will always call the Contact Provider automatically.

It is confirmed that users have already installed these apps from 100K to 1M+. Considering that the malware works when it is installed, the installed number is reflected as the victim’s number. According to McAfee telemetry data, this malware and its variants affect a wide range of countries, including South Korea, Japan, and Brazil.

This malware is auto-starting malware, so as soon as the users download it from Google Play, they are infected immediately. And it is still constantly developing variants that are published by different developer accounts. Therefore, it is not easy for users to notice this type of malware. The threat has already disclosed to Google and all reported applications were removed from the Play Store.

Reference URL(s)

  1. https://www.mcafee.com/blogs/other-blogs/mcafee-labs/new-hiddenads-malware-that-runs-automatically-and-hides-on-google-play-1m-users-affected/
Malware that runs automatically and hides on Google Play
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