25 Million Android Phones Infected globally.
Including 15 million mobile devices in India.
It will install malicious applications silently.
It will replace with popular apps like WhatsApp and ShareIt.
This is the big serious privacy issue, your Android device might be hit by Malware named Agent Smith.
According to security research by Check Point, 25 Million Infected Devices: Check Point Research Discovers New Variant of Mobile Malware.
“Agent Smith” malware automatically replaces installed apps with malicious versions without the user’s knowledge or interaction.
Check Point Research, the Threat Intelligence arm of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. A leading provider of cyber security solutions globally, has discovered a new variant of mobile malware that has quietly infected around 25 million devices, including 15 million mobile devices in India.
Disguised as a Google-related application, the malware exploits known Android vulnerabilities and automatically replaces installed apps with malicious versions without users’ knowledge or interaction.
Dubbed “Agent Smith”, the malware currently uses its broad access to the devices’ resources to show fraudulent ads for financial gain, but could easily be used for far more intrusive and harmful purposes such as banking credential theft and eavesdropping. This activity resembles previous malware campaigns such as Gooligan, Hummingbad and CopyCat.
What Does “Agent Smith” Do?
“Agent Smith” has primarily three phases in its attack flow.
In the first phase, the attacker lures users to download a dropper application from an app store such as 9Apps. These droppers are usually disguised as free games, utility applications or adult entertainment applications, yet contain an encrypted malicious payload.
The dropper application then checks if any popular applications, such apps include WhatsApp, MXplayer, ShareIt and more from the attacker’s pre-determined list, are installed on the device. If any targeted application is found, “Agent Smith” will then attack those innocent applications at a later stage.
In the second phase, after the dropper gains a foothold on victim device, it automatically decrypts the malicious payload into its original form – an APK (Android installation file) file which serves as the core part of “Agent Smith’s attack. The dropper then abuses several known system vulnerabilities to install the core malware without any user interaction at all.
In the third phase, the core malware conducts attacks against each installed application on device which appears on its target list. The core malware quietly extracts a given innocent application’s APK file, patches it with extra malicious modules and finally abuses a further set of system vulnerabilities to silently swap the innocent version with a malicious one.
What users can do?
“The malware attacks user-installed applications silently, making it challenging for common Android users to combat such threats on their own,” said Jonathan Shimonovich, Head of Mobile Threat Detection Research at Check Point Software Technologies.
“Combining advanced threat prevention and threat intelligence while adopting a ‘hygiene first’ approach to safeguard digital assets is the best protection against invasive mobile malware attacks like “Agent Smith”.
In addition, users should only be downloading apps from trusted app stores to mitigate the risk of infection as third party app stores often lack the security measures required to block adware loaded apps.”
Where it comes from?
“Agent Smith” was originally downloaded from the widely-used third party app store, 9 Apps and targeted mostly Hindi, Arabic, Russian, Indonesian speaking users. So far, the primary victims are based in India though other Asian countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh have also been impacted.
There has also been a noticeable number of infected devices in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Check Point has worked closely with Google and at the time of publishing, no malicious apps remain on the Play Store.
Remove Unknown App
If you have been infected by apps such as those described in “Agent Smith”, or otherwise, please follow these steps to remove the malicious apps.
- Go to Settings Menu
- Click on Apps or Application Manager
- Scroll to the suspected app and uninstall it.
- If it can’t be found then remove all recently installed apps.
- Always keep your Apps updated.
- Do not install Apps from unknown sources.
- Do not click unknown links like (new WhatsApp theme).
Read here for full technical Analysis.