Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Mobile

10/24/2019
02:45 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Apple Boots 17 Trojan-Laden Apps From Mobile Store

Malware was designed to carry out click-fraud, Wandera says.

Apple has removed 17 mobile apps from its App Store after a security vendor reported them as infected with malware.

But an unknown number of people who downloaded the free apps continue to be at risk of having their devices being used to quietly carry out ad-fraud related tasks such as continuously clicking on links or opening Web pages without any action on their part.

In a report Thursday, Wandera described the 17 malicious apps it found as containing clicker Trojan malware designed to generate revenues for their developer by fraudulently inflating traffic on pay-per-click websites. An attacker can also use such malware to drain the budgets of rival websites by artificially inflating the amount they owe to an ad network, Wandera said.

The apps were found receiving instructions from a known command-and-control server. Commands from the C2 server included those that could silently load websites, deliver targeted advertising, remotely reconfigure infected devices, and sign up users for expensive services without their knowledge.

The list of infected free apps, which Wandera has published on its website, included productivity, travel, platform utility, restaurant finder, and video-editing apps from India-based AppAspect Technologies. The developer currently appears to have at least 51 apps on Apple's App Store, of which 35 are free.

Michael Covington, vice president of product at Wandera, says the company only tested the free apps. So it is unclear if AppAspect's paid products are similarly infected.

Apple, unlike Google, does not provide any information on download numbers for apps on App Store. As a result, it's hard to determine with any certainty how many people might have downloaded the infected AppAspect software, Covington says. But based on how the India-based developer's Android versions of the same apps have performed, it is safe to assume that a significant number of iOS users have been impacted, he notes.

Wandera discovered nine AppAspect apps for Android on Google's Play Store that are counterparts of the iOS versions. Those apps have nearly 1.1 million installs in total. "Because the developer seems to have spent more time developing on the Apple App Store — with 51 apps on the App Store versus 28 on Google Play — we assume their iOS apps reach even more users," Covington says.

None of the 28 Android apps that AppAspect has on Google's Play Store currently appear infected. However, some of the apps were previously reported as malicious and removed. The developer appears to have uploaded the again to Play without the malware, Wandera said.

Bypassing Security Controls

Both Apple and Google have implemented substantial measures over the years to quickly identify and remove rogue apps from their mobile app stores. Their respective stores continue to be by far the safest location for users to download Android and iOS apps. But the sheer volume of apps being uploaded to these stores and the ingenuity of some developers has resulted in malicious apps frequently getting uploaded anyway.

In Apple's case, the company's app review process is designed more to ensure that iOS apps meet optimal usability and performance standards, Covington says. 

Apple also verifies that developer's API calls as intentioned and often rejects developers that violate the company's rules for how an app should run.

"We believe these [AppAspect] apps bypassed the Apple vetting process because the Trojan developer didn't put any "bad" code directly into the app," Covington notes. "Instead, the [apps were] configured to obtain commands and additional payloads directly from the C&C server, which is outside of Apple's review purview."

Related Content:

This free, all-day online conference offers a look at the latest tools, strategies, and best practices for protecting your organization’s most sensitive data. Click for more information and, to register, here.

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 10/27/2020
Modern Day Insider Threat: Network Bugs That Are Stealing Your Data
David Pearson, Principal Threat Researcher,  10/21/2020
Are You One COVID-19 Test Away From a Cybersecurity Disaster?
Alan Brill, Senior Managing Director, Cyber Risk Practice, Kroll,  10/21/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-27956
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-28
An Arbitrary File Upload in the Upload Image component in SourceCodester Car Rental Management System 1.0 allows the user to conduct remote code execution via admin/index.php?page=manage_car because .php files can be uploaded to admin/assets/uploads/ (under the web root).
CVE-2020-27957
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-28
The RandomGameUnit extension for MediaWiki through 1.35 was not properly escaping various title-related data. When certain varieties of games were created within MediaWiki, their names or titles could be manipulated to generate stored XSS within the RandomGameUnit extension.
CVE-2020-16140
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-27
The search functionality of the Greenmart theme 2.4.2 for WordPress is vulnerable to XSS.
CVE-2020-9982
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-27
This issue was addressed with improved checks to prevent unauthorized actions. This issue is fixed in Apple Music 3.4.0 for Android. A malicious application may be able to leak a user's credentials.
CVE-2020-3855
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-27
An access issue was addressed with improved access restrictions. This issue is fixed in macOS Catalina 10.15.3, Security Update 2020-001 Mojave, Security Update 2020-001 High Sierra. A malicious application may be able to overwrite arbitrary files.