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 6/5/2020
How AI and Automation Can Help Bridge the Cybersecurity Talent Gap
Peter Barker, Chief Product Officer at ForgeRock,  6/1/2020
Cybersecurity Spending Hits 'Temporary Pause' Amid Pandemic
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  6/2/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: What? IT said I needed virus protection!
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-13864
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-05
The Elementor Page Builder plugin before 2.9.9 for WordPress suffers from a stored XSS vulnerability. An author user can create posts that result in a stored XSS by using a crafted payload in custom links.
CVE-2020-13865
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-05
The Elementor Page Builder plugin before 2.9.9 for WordPress suffers from multiple stored XSS vulnerabilities. An author user can create posts that result in stored XSS vulnerabilities, by using a crafted link in the custom URL or by applying custom attributes.
CVE-2020-11696
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-05
In Combodo iTop a menu shortcut name can be exploited with a stored XSS payload. This is fixed in all iTop packages (community, essential, professional) in version 2.7.0 and iTop essential and iTop professional in version 2.6.4.
CVE-2020-11697
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-05
In Combodo iTop, dashboard ids can be exploited with a reflective XSS payload. This is fixed in all iTop packages (community, essential, professional) for version 2.7.0 and in iTop essential and iTop professional packages for version 2.6.4.
CVE-2020-13646
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-05
In the cheetah free wifi 5.1 driver file liebaonat.sys, local users are allowed to cause a denial of service (BSOD) or other unknown impact due to failure to verify the value of a specific IOCTL.