Vulnerabilities / Threats
5/28/2014
12:00 PM
Felix Leder
Felix Leder
Commentary
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Dissecting Dendroid: An In-Depth Look Inside An Android RAT Kit

Dendroid is full of surprises to assist it in subverting traditional security tactics through company-issued Android phones or BYOD.

In March, alarms went off when security researchers discovered the Android malware creation kit Dendroid was being advertised in malware forums for sale to anyone who wanted to automate the distribution process for a mere $300.

Dendroid consists of a web-based administration panel and a builder that can add “Remote Administration Toolkit” (RAT) functionality by repackaging it with existing applications. Researchers disclosed how easy it is to patch Dendroid into existing apps (which is scary enough, given how quick users are to download new apps) but what sets Dendroid apart is the myriad of malicious functionality it possesses to exploit an Android device.

One of the most frightening examples of Dendroid capabilities is that it can secretly record all of your phone calls or silently listen in on your phone’s microphone whenever it wants. The malware can also upload all of your phone’s pictures. Imagine walking into the office, going on an interview, or applying for a bank loan one day and have to face your entire digital personal history on display. Even costlier than personal embarrassment, though, is the potential risk Dendroid poses for businesses using company-issued Android devices or supporting a BYOD policy. Pictures of notes from brainstorming sessions or intellectual property are temptingly at risk of exploitation.

Diverging from the data-loss theme for a moment, Dendroid can also perform “classic” Android malware functions, such as sending SMS messages to premium-rate numbers without making its owner aware until the huge bill arrives.

Even worse is the fact that Dendroid is clever enough that it can hide in plain sight, packaging itself inside an application that appears to be a parental control tool. One area where this can really wreak havoc is with parental control apps that require several of the same privileges as the RAT, such as accessing GPS coordinates or checking installed apps. This allows Dendroid to sneak by defenses, even with manual inspection, while secretly requesting permissions to access a long list of questionable applications and actions including:

  • INTERNET
  • CAMERA
  • READ_SMS
  • WRITE_SMS
  • READ_CONTACTS
  • WAKE_LOCK
  • CALL_PHONE
  • RECORD_AUDIO

Dendroid is full of surprises to assist it in subverting traditional security tactics. In this screenshot, you can see how Dendroid authors use configurations and commands to further their efforts:

Notice the flag called “GPlayBypass,” which stands for “Google Play Bypass.” This functionality is designed to help the malware evade detection by Google Bouncer, a sandboxing tool through which almost every app has to run before it is allowed into the Google Play store. It’s just one of the many tools Dendroid wields in its quest to cause the greatest amount of harm to your Android device.

In the end, of course, it’s all about money for Dendroid. In this malware forum post from October 2013, the author advertises the sale of Dendroid source code for both the panel and the builder (including three months of support). He or she fondly notes in another section of the post that the project took “1.3 years to fully develop”:

Dendroid’s large variety of available commands shows the full threat potential that an infected phone can have. The emulator detection is simple, but it is likely to work in various analysis environments. Since the kit includes components to repackage existing apps, we can expect to see more of Dendroid in the future.

All in all, this is a very interesting piece of malware, and a difficult one to detect. Users of network forensics appliances should look for indications of the traffic patterns, which you can read about in greater detail in my full blog post, Dendroid under the hood.

Felix Leder leads mobile malware research at Blue Coat Systems Norway. He has been instrumental in developing a number of malware analysis solutions, including Cuckoo box, Norman's Malware Analyzer G2, and Blue Coat's MAA. After beginning his career in the mobile space with ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
FelixLeder
50%
50%
FelixLeder,
User Rank: Author
5/28/2014 | 5:16:46 PM
Re: based off Androrat
That's a very important point, Robert. Charlie Miller and Jon Oberheide did some research on bouncer: https://jon.oberheide.org/files/summercon12-bouncer.pdf Unfortunatley, we are seeing more and more malware using their findings. Fortunately, this can be used to scan for suspicious candidates.
Robert McDougal
50%
50%
Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
5/28/2014 | 4:58:08 PM
Re: based off Androrat
One thing I feel is prudent to mention here is that Google only scans apps on the Play store for Malware when they are first uploaded.  An existing app on your phone could be updated with this malware and through the course of a normal update you could be infected.  This was an issue with Chrome extensions a few months back and Google supposedly changed their scanning practice, but I never heard of a change to their Play store scanning practices.
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
5/28/2014 | 2:19:47 PM
Re: based off Androrat
Thanks @_g3nuin3 Here is the live link to that 

 
_g3nuin3
50%
50%
_g3nuin3,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/28/2014 | 1:14:01 PM
based off Androrat
It should also be mentioned that a major portion of the code and its overall basis was actually taken from the open source project androrat. https://github.com/DesignativeDave/androrat
More Blogs from Commentary
Ram Scraper Malware: Why PCI DSS Can't Fix Retail
There is a gaping hole in the pre-eminent industry security standard aimed at protecting customers, credit card and personal data
Dark Reading Radio: The Winners & Losers of Botnet Takedowns
Our guests are Cheri McGuire, VP of global government affairs and cyber security policy for Symantec, and Craig D. Spiezle, executive director and founder of the Online Trust Alliance.
Infographic: With BYOD, Mobile Is The New Desktop
Security teams have no choice but to embrace the rapid proliferation of BYO devices, apps, and cloud services. To ignore it is to put your head in the sand.
Internet of Things: Security For A World Of Ubiquitous Computing
Endpoint security is hardly dead, and claiming that it is oversimplifies the challenges corporations face now and in the not-very-distant future.
CEO Report Card: Low Grades for Risk Management
Dark Reading's latest community poll shows a stunning lack of confidence in chief execs' commitment to cyber security.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-1544
Published: 2014-07-23
Use-after-free vulnerability in the CERT_DestroyCertificate function in libnss3.so in Mozilla Network Security Services (NSS) 3.x, as used in Firefox before 31.0, Firefox ESR 24.x before 24.7, and Thunderbird before 24.7, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via vectors that trigger cer...

CVE-2014-1547
Published: 2014-07-23
Multiple unspecified vulnerabilities in the browser engine in Mozilla Firefox before 31.0, Firefox ESR 24.x before 24.7, and Thunderbird before 24.7 allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (memory corruption and application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-1548
Published: 2014-07-23
Multiple unspecified vulnerabilities in the browser engine in Mozilla Firefox before 31.0 and Thunderbird before 31.0 allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (memory corruption and application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-1549
Published: 2014-07-23
The mozilla::dom::AudioBufferSourceNodeEngine::CopyFromInputBuffer function in Mozilla Firefox before 31.0 and Thunderbird before 31.0 does not properly allocate Web Audio buffer memory, which allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (buffer overflow and applica...

CVE-2014-1550
Published: 2014-07-23
Use-after-free vulnerability in the MediaInputPort class in Mozilla Firefox before 31.0 and Thunderbird before 31.0 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (heap memory corruption) by leveraging incorrect Web Audio control-message ordering.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Sara Peters hosts a conversation on Botnets and those who fight them.