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

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
White Papers
More White Papers
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Mobile Banking Malware Up 50% in First Half of 2019
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/17/2020
Active Directory Needs an Update: Here's Why
Raz Rafaeli, CEO and Co-Founder at Secret Double Octopus,  1/16/2020
New Attack Campaigns Suggest Emotet Threat Is Far From Over
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/16/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-20399
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-23
A timing vulnerability in the Scalar::check_overflow function in Parity libsecp256k1-rs before 0.3.1 potentially allows an attacker to leak information via a side-channel attack.
CVE-2020-7915
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
An issue was discovered on Eaton 5P 850 devices. The Ubicacion SAI field allows XSS attacks by an administrator.
CVE-2019-20391
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
An invalid memory access flaw is present in libyang before v1.0-r3 in the function resolve_feature_value() when an if-feature statement is used inside a bit. Applications that use libyang to parse untrusted input yang files may crash.
CVE-2019-20392
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
An invalid memory access flaw is present in libyang before v1.0-r1 in the function resolve_feature_value() when an if-feature statement is used inside a list key node, and the feature used is not defined. Applications that use libyang to parse untrusted input yang files may crash.
CVE-2019-20393
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
A double-free is present in libyang before v1.0-r1 in the function yyparse() when an empty description is used. Applications that use libyang to parse untrusted input yang files may be vulnerable to this flaw, which would cause a crash or potentially code execution.