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

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
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
News
US Formally Attributes SolarWinds Attack to Russian Intelligence Agency
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  4/15/2021
News
Dependency Problems Increase for Open Source Components
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  4/14/2021
News
FBI Operation Remotely Removes Web Shells From Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/14/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-7856
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
A vulnerability of Helpcom could allow an unauthenticated attacker to execute arbitrary command. This vulnerability exists due to insufficient authentication validation.
CVE-2021-28793
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
vscode-restructuredtext before 146.0.0 contains an incorrect access control vulnerability, where a crafted project folder could execute arbitrary binaries via crafted workspace configuration.
CVE-2021-25679
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
** UNSUPPORTED WHEN ASSIGNED ** The AdTran Personal Phone Manager software is vulnerable to an authenticated stored cross-site scripting (XSS) issues. These issues impact at minimum versions 10.8.1 and below but potentially impact later versions as well since they have not previously been disclosed....
CVE-2021-25680
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
** UNSUPPORTED WHEN ASSIGNED ** The AdTran Personal Phone Manager software is vulnerable to multiple reflected cross-site scripting (XSS) issues. These issues impact at minimum versions 10.8.1 and below but potentially impact later versions as well since they have not previously been disclosed. Only...
CVE-2021-25681
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
** UNSUPPORTED WHEN ASSIGNED ** AdTran Personal Phone Manager 10.8.1 software is vulnerable to an issue that allows for exfiltration of data over DNS. This could allow for exposed AdTran Personal Phone Manager web servers to be used as DNS redirectors to tunnel arbitrary data over DNS. NOTE: The aff...