Mobile

3/13/2017
05:00 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Enterprises Hit with Malware Preinstalled on their Androids

Check Point details evidence of mobile supply chain problems based on infections on devices at two large organizations.

Reports of a pair of isolated mobile malware outbreaks at two large companies yet again calls into question the security of the Android device supply chain.

The mobile security research team with Check Point Software Technologies found several dozen devices at two unnamed enterprises teaming with malware that came preinstalled out of the box.

While the researchers noted that the apps weren't integrated components of the official ROM firmware developed by the devices' manufacturers, they did confirm that the malicious applications were not downloaded to the device after activation by the user. 

"(They) were added somewhere along the supply chain," wrote Orien Koriat, a researcher with the Check Point Mobile Research Team. " Six of the malware instances were added by a malicious actor to the device’s ROM using system privileges, meaning they couldn’t be removed by the user and the device had to be re-flashed."

The report took a look at 36 infected devices from two large firms, a large telecom and a global technology company. The devices in question had multiple instances of preinstalled malware, including a number of information stealing applications, adware and ransomware. Some notable inclusions were instances of Slocker mobile ransomware and Loki adware, which establishes total persistence on a device through complete device control.  

Pre-installed mobile device malware and built-in backdoors are starting to pop up in the Android device ecosystem with greater regularity and security experts believe that the problem will continue to grow. Most recently, the preinstallation of firmware on budget smartphones from manufacturers like BLU, Infinix, and LEAGOO that allowed for the remote installation of applications without user consent was highlighted by researchers at Kryptowire, Dr. Web and US-CERT. This ADUPS firmware was thoroughly enmeshed at the system level with the device platform and further research from Trustlook estimated that it came pre-installed on 700 million Android devices with the capability to "text messages, phone call histories, and details of how the phone is being used all without the user’s permission," researchers with Trustlook said.

One of the big dangers of pre-installed malicious apps is that bad behavior never looks abnormal to a device user.

"Pre-installed malware compromise the security even of the most careful users," says Koriat. "In addition, a user who receives a device already containing malware will not be able to notice any change in the device’s activity which often occur once a malware is installed." 

According to Michael Patterson, CEO of networks security firm Plixer International, examples like this "shatter" the trust in the mobile device supply chain and "places into question the quality assurance processes that exist today for device manufacturers."

Though enterprises should reasonably expect new electronics to be free of malware from the get-go, they're still on the hook when events like this take place, he explains. This is why it's important to not only lean on device security measures but also a backstop of network monitoring and controls to look for issues like these. He adds that device manufacturers also need to step up their QA game to add greater security assurances before sending devices out the door.

"Based on these findings, device manufacturers should now introduce a final test of devices prior to shipping them to customers," he says. "Although this will certainly impact the cost of manufacturing and delivery, the potential negative impact of a loss of trust for mainstream manufacturers overshadows this cost increase."  

Related Content:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
The Year in Security 2018
This Dark Reading Tech Digest explores the biggest news stories of 2018 that shaped the cybersecurity landscape.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Data breach fears and the need to comply with regulations such as GDPR are two major drivers increased spending on security products and technologies. But other factors are contributing to the trend as well. Find out more about how enterprises are attacking the cybersecurity problem by reading our report today.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-0624
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-17
A spoofing vulnerability exists when a Skype for Business 2015 server does not properly sanitize a specially crafted request, aka "Skype for Business 2015 Spoofing Vulnerability." This affects Skype.
CVE-2019-0646
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-17
A Cross-site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability exists when Team Foundation Server does not properly sanitize user provided input, aka "Team Foundation Server Cross-site Scripting Vulnerability." This affects Team.
CVE-2019-0647
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-17
An information disclosure vulnerability exists when Team Foundation Server does not properly handle variables marked as secret, aka "Team Foundation Server Information Disclosure Vulnerability." This affects Team.
CVE-2018-20727
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-17
Multiple command injection vulnerabilities in NeDi before 1.7Cp3 allow authenticated users to execute code on the server side via the flt parameter to Nodes-Traffic.php, the dv parameter to Devices-Graph.php, or the tit parameter to drawmap.php.
CVE-2018-20728
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-17
A cross site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in NeDi before 1.7Cp3 allows remote attackers to escalate privileges via User-Management.php.