Feeds

Android adware that MUST NOT BE NAMED threatens MILLIONS

Software's 'aggressive' slurps, vulnerabilities are so BAD, researchers won't ID it

High performance access to file storage

A popular mobile ad library used by multiple Android apps poses a severe malware threat, researchers at infosec firm FireEye have warned. The security researchers said that altogether 200 million affected apps had been downloaded.

This ad library aggressively collects sensitive data and is able to perform dangerous operations such as calling home to a command-and-control server before downloading and running secondary components on demand.

Mobile ad libraries are third-party software included by host apps in order to display ads. Because this library could potentially be used to conduct large-scale attacks on millions of users, FireEye refers to it anonymously by the code name “Vulna” rather than revealing its true identity.

An analysis of the most popular apps (those with over one million downloads) on Google Play reveals that 1.8 per cent of them used "Vulna". The potentially affected apps have been downloaded more than 200 million times in total.

FireEye catalogues a variety of built-in aggressive behaviours which, in addition to vulnerabilities with the technology, make Vulna a threat.

Though it is widely known that ad libraries present privacy risks such as collecting device identifiers (IMEI, IMSI, etc.) and location information, Vulna presents far more severe security issues. First, Vulna is aggressive - if instructed by its server, it will collect sensitive information such as text messages, phone call history, and contacts. It also performs dangerous operations such as executing dynamically downloaded code.

Second, Vulna contains a number of diverse vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities, when exploited, allow an attacker to utilize Vulna’s risky and aggressive functionality to conduct malicious activity, such as turning on the camera and taking pictures without the user’s knowledge, stealing two-factor authentication tokens sent via SMS, or turning the device into part of a botnet.

A blog post by FireEye warns that Vulna is also "plagued with various classes of vulnerabilities that enable attackers to turn Vulna’s aggressive behaviours against users".

Security shortcomings of the software include its use of unsecured HTTP for receiving commands and the dynamic loading of code from its control server.

FireEye said that it has notified both Google and the developer of the software about the threat.

"We've notified both Google and the vendor of the ad library and given them the list of apps which are impacted by these issues," Dr Tao Wei, a senior research scientist at FireEye, told El Reg. "They have confirmed the issues and are actively working on addressing these issues. The vendor of the ad library is in the process of notifying the developers using their library to upgrade to the latest version which fixes many of the security issues we addressed.

"In the meantime, detailed information will be provided to FireEye's customers to protect them from potential attacks."

We asked Google for comment on Monday but are yet to hear back. We'll update the story as and when we hear more. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
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
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
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
NSA denies it knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS
Agency forgets it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them
Heartbleed exploit, inoculation, both released
File under 'this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me'
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
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.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
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.