Researchers at mobile security firm Lookout have come across a new malicious adware family distributed via trojanized versions of popular Android applications.
Security experts at Lookout have discovered a new strain of adware dubbed Shuanet, which is distributed via trojanized versions of popular Android apps, including the Okta’s two-factor authentication application, Candy Crush and Facebook.
Shuanet is able to gain root access to the infected device phone without the user’s knowledge, the threats install themselves as system applications and are very hard to remove from the devices.
The researchers at Lookout have discovered more than 20,000 popular Android applications that were trojanized with the adware Shuanet, Kemoge and Shuanet and distributed through third-party repositories. The trojanized versions of the mobile apps are fully functional, for this reason, they don’t raise suspicion. It is important to note that threat actors behind the campaign avoided compromising antivirus apps, a circumstance that suggests a high level of planning when creating these malware campaigns.
“Lookout has detected over 20,000 samples of this type of trojanized adware masquerading as legitimate top applications, including Candy Crush, Facebook, GoogleNow, NYTimes, Okta, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, and many others.” Lookout’s Michael Bentley wrote in a blog post. “Malicious actors behind these families repackage and inject malicious code into thousands of popular applications found in Google Play, and then later publish them to third-party app stores.”
The expert observed the majority of the Shuanet adware infections in the United States, Germany, Iran, Russia, India, Jamaica, Sudan, Brazil, Mexico, and Indonesia.
Lookout researchers believe that threat actors behind the adware campaigns Kemoge, Shedun and Shuanet are different groups, anyway the adware families appear to be linked. In some cases, the variants of malware analyzed share between 71 and 82 percent of their code, a circumstance that suggest the authors used the same pieces of code to build their versions of the auto-rooting adware.
Kemoge and Shuanet adware share at least three exploits to root devices.
“While historically adware hoped to convince the user to install new applications by showing banners and annoying pop ups, now it can install these third party apps without user consent. In this way it can heavily capitalize on the Cost Per Install paid out by web marketing companies,” Lookout’s Michael Bentley said in a blog post. “Unfortunately, should the revenue model change on clicks-per-install and ads, this may lead to malware authors using this privilege escalation for new monetization strategies.”
According to the experts, it is easy to predict that this type of trojanized adware will become even more sophisticated over the time.
“We expect this class of trojanized adware to continue gaining sophistication over time, leveraging its root privilege to further exploit user devices, allow additional malware to gain read or write privileges in the system directory, and better hide evidence of its presence and activities.”
(Security Affairs – CryptoWall 4.0, ransomware)