Feeds

Malicious apps infiltrate Google's Android Market

Bogus games purged after more than 10,000 downloads

High performance access to file storage

Google security crews have tossed at least a dozen smartphone games out of the Android Market after discovering they contained secret code that caused owners to accrue expensive charges for text messages sent to premium numbers.

The malicious apps, uploaded to the Google-hosted service by a developer named Logastrod, masqueraded as wildly popular games such as Angry Birds, Assassin's Creed Revelations, and NEED FOR SPEED. The developer allegedly cloned the titles, including the accompanying graphics and descriptions, and added malicious code that caused handsets to surreptitiously send and receive premium messages.

By the time Google removed the titles – more than 24 hours after they were first made available – more than 10,000 people had downloaded them, according to a blog post published on Monday by Sophos.

“We have already stated several times that the requirements for becoming an Android developer that can publish apps to the Android market are far too relaxed,” Sophos blogger Vanja Svajcer wrote. “The cost of becoming a developer and being banned by Google is much lower than the money that can be earned by publishing malicious apps. The attacks on the Android Market will continue as long as the developer requirements stay too relaxed.”

In all fairness to Google, users who installed the counterfeit games saw permission screens that warned the apps were able to “edit SMS or MMS, read SMS or MMS, receive SMS” messages. The apps also came with terms of service that disclosed users would be subscribed to premium services that cost as much as €4.50.

The revelation that Google hosted the malicious titles for more than a day and allowed them to be downloaded more than 10,000 times is ample evidence that these protections aren't enough to secure the Android Market. Google has steadfastly declined to scan apps available in its online store for malicious code that logs users' keystrokes or racks up expensive charges.

Google has long counseled users to carefully examine the permissions screen of each app before it's installed. And at least one of its employees has lashed out at companies providing antivirus products for Android handsets, calling them "charlatans" who play on users' fears.

With so many Android apps requiring access to geographic-location data, messaging functions, and other sensitive resources, Google has yet to educate users how to tell legitimate requests from illegitimate requests. What's more, Google's caveat emptor approach means it's up to users to make sure they don't get swindled while shopping in the company's official apps bazaar. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
Oz bank in comedy Heartbleed blog FAIL
Bank: 'We are now safely patched.' Customers: 'You were using OpenSSL?'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.