Feeds

Maybe don't install that groovy pirated Android keyboard

It could be loggin' your login, warn experts

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

A mobile software developer has turned an popular third party Android mobile keyboard called SwiftKey into a counterfeit package loaded with a trojan as a warning about the perils of using pirated or cracked apps from back-street app stores.

Georgie Casey, who runs a popular Android app-development blog in Ireland, created a modified (backdoored) version of SwiftKey using a tool called apktool combined with basic knowledge of Java and Android. The end result was a backdoored app called Keylogger SwiftKey APK, which Casey made available from his website (along with explicit warnings that it was to be used by interested parties and only to validate the problem).

"Apktool isn't keylogging software, it's an Android app dissassembler," Casey told El Reg.

"You dissassemble a Swiftkey keyboard, code your keylogger code that sends keylogs to my server, re-assemble with Apktool and now you've a keylogger. You still have to convince people to install it though."

Casey added that using pirated Android apps, especially from third-party stories, is a serious security risk. He reckons the threat also extends to iPhone apps on a jailbroken phone, a theme he expands upon in a blog post on his development of Keylogger SwiftKey APK that also provides a detailed explanation of how he pulled off the trick.

"Cracked copies of PC and iPhone apps can have malware as well, of course, but on both those platforms most software is compiled to machine code," Casey writes.

"Android apps are coded in Java and compiled to byte code that is run on the Dalvik VM and this byte code is not that hard to edit and insert back into an APK."

The backdoored code would have been capable of uploading any keystrokes entered by unwitting users (potentially credit card details, webmail logins and more) to a remote server. The exercise shows that the threat from pirated malware-laden apps extends beyond games to utilities such as SwiftKey.

Casey told El Reg:

"Should custom Android keyboards even be allowed? We can agree that TLS/SSL is great security against man in the middle attacks but it doesn't really matter if the custom keyboard you've installed is sending your bank PIN or CC numbers to an external server."

Statistics from Trend Micro show the problem of dodgy Android apps is far from isolated. The security software firm's Mobile App Reputation service sources and analyses Android apps from around the world, scoring the mobile software apps on the basis of maliciousness, resource utilisation and privacy.

Trend has surveyed some 2 million apps, or around three times the total number of apps on Google Play. More than one in ten of these apps (293,091) were classified as malicious with a further 150,203 classified as high risk, according to the latest figures.

Google Play is as much a part of the problem as unofficial app stores in the developing world.

"Of those 293,091 malicious apps, 68,740 were sourced directly from Google Play," writes Rik Ferguson, director of security research and communications at Trend Micro.

"It’s not just Chinese and Russian app stores."

And outright maliciousness is just a start of the problems.

One in five (22 per cent) of the apps were found to inappropriately leak user data over the network, SMS or telephone. The leaked data most often includes IMEI, contact data and telephone number. A few apps were even found to leak data using the microphone and camera. A further third (32 per cent) of the apps were classified as "poor" in terms of battery usage, a quarter (24 per cent) "poor" for network usage and a similar 28 per cent were memory hogs. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.