Mobile
7/6/2017
02:30 PM
50%
50%

CopyCat Malware Infects 14 Million Android Devices

A new malware strain is discovered with a novel approach to infecting Android handheld devices with adware.

Millions of Android devices have been hit with a new malware strain called CopyCat that uses a unique approach to injecting the devices with adware, according to a researcher with Check Point's mobile research team, which released its findings today in a blog post.

CopyCat's malware infected 14 million Android devices, with the majority hitting Asia (55%), followed by Africa (18%), and then the Americas (12%).

Check Point first ran across CopyCat in March, after one of its enterprise customers was attacked by the malware. However, the security company believes the CopyCat campaign hit its peak between April and May of 2016.

"While other adware [has existed] for a long time now, we can't really identify CopyCat with any known malware family, and it introduced new tactics which were never seen before," says Daniel Padon, a Check Point researcher, who noted it does not behave like other known adware families like HummingBad and Gooligan.

CopyCat is believed to have spread by phishing scams and repackaging popular apps with malware as users download them from third-party app stores, according to Check Point.

After infecting the Android device, it roots the device to take full control of it. The malware then injects the Zygote launching process app with code to begin installing unauthorized apps onto the device.

Adware Twist

What is novel about CopyCat is what happens once it detects that an unauthorized app has been installed. 

"The really interesting technology it uses to steal revenue is taking credit for advertising ads that led to installations of apps. It simply switches the real referrer's ID with its own once it detects an installation process," Padon explains.

By using a separate module to install the fraudulent apps and swapping out the referrer's ID, the cyberthieves get the credit – and the revenue – for having installed the app and displaying the fraudulent ads.

Check Point estimates the attackers who created CopyCat have generated $1.5 million in revenue. Check Point found CopyCat may have possible ties to MobiSummer, a Chinese ad network, but it is hard to determine if this group is involved with CopyCat intentionally, says Padon.

 [Source: Check Point]

Versions of Android 5 or earlier are vulnerable to rooting exploits, says Padon. He notes that Google estimates 60% of its mobile users are on Android 5 or earlier versions.

In addition to CopyCat, another Android malware strain that roots devices was recently discovered. Palo Alto Networks today noted it discovered SpyDealer, which gains root privilege using Baidu Easy Root and then steals sensitive data from more than 40 apps that may be loaded on the device. This malware affects Android devices with versions 2.2 to 4.4, which accounts fpr approximately 25% of Androids worldwide, according to Palo Alto Networks.

After Check Point made its discovery in March, it notified Google. And although the malware appears not to be coming from apps in the official Google Play store, Google was able to mitigate the CopyCat campaign, Check Point notes in its blog.

Although patches exist for all vulnerabilities used by CopyCat, Padon notes Android devices suffer from a severe lack of patching. That, in turn, makes it easier for attackers to install CopyCat.

Black Hat USA returns to the fabulous Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, July 22-27, 2017. Click for information on the conference schedule and to register.

 

Related Content:

Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
1.9 Billion Data Records Exposed in First Half of 2017
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  9/20/2017
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Jan, check this out! I found an unhackable PC.
Current Issue
Security Vulnerabilities: The Next Wave
Just when you thought it was safe, researchers have unveiled a new round of IT security flaws. Is your enterprise ready?
Flash Poll
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
Enterprises are spending more of their IT budgets on cybersecurity technology. How do your organization's security plans and strategies compare to what others are doing? Here's an in-depth look.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.