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New Android App Malware Infects 250 Million Downloads – A Deeper Analysis

Malware

What is the new app coming up next? This question is always followed by what new security features does it have to counter malware attacks? There is nothing new about Malware being spread via the official Google App Store. The main aim of Malware is to destroy target computers after being implanted in some way, into the target computer or network of computers. Malware developers always try something new to try and crash through Google’s defenses. This has become more rampant since the introduction of smart phones and other high tech mobile devices.

The serious effect of a malware attack

Malware attacks destroy data within no time. Most of the malware apps are arrested before they spread too far but operating systems like Android, ios and windows, continue to be vulnerable till this day, though research continues towards offering the most robust data security. This was evident when a couple of new Android Malware App hit the scene and affected more than 250 million downloads.  Google now continues to have its task cut out on how to address these issues in the future.

The Malware simbad in news

Sinbad was the first malware campaign which left close to 210 apps which were found on Google store. These apps, most of them which were simulator games, were downloaded by close to 150- 200 million times, unaware of the fact that it was accompanied by anew malware by name Simbad. This particular malware was disguised as an advertising kit that all the impacted apps had used to control how ads were being displayed to users. Before Google came to know about it and necessary immediate action was taken, studies revealed the presence of the malicious advertising kit inside Android apps that had been uploaded on the official Google Play Store, all of which were downloaded by close to 150 million users. Researchers also concluded that many of these affected apps were racing or shooter games with a lot of contained a lot of tricky features that just couldn’t be identified with an advertiser’s software kit.

The second malware in question to have caused harm, though in a lesser quantum was known as Operation Sheep which affected lesser amount of apps but were downloaded close to 100 million times. How these apps were different and not a part of those found in the Google App store.

How dangerous could the effects of these malware be?

Simbad was aimed towards displaying notices, Phishing and leaving other apps totally exposed to further malware attacks.  Simbad had the ability to generate Phishing attacks which could easily affect users across multiple platforms, because it could open any given URL within a browser.  Simbad was found to be extremely challenging to deal with as it could open any app present in the Google App Store and use it illegally as a business model.  Simbad could easily facilitate the installation of remote apps from a designated server. This could easily pave the way for malware being introduced into large networks of computers form an unknown remote location, causing large scale damage to critical data. The second malware campaign noticed and notified as The Operation Sheep, was not too far away in posing similar challenges, but it did happen in a lesser quantum, as compared to Simbad.  Operation Sheep was clearly designed to steal information from a user’s smart phone or iPhone. However, data hackers would route user information to servers based across far eastern countries, most often in China

Be Attentive and Act Fast

Being aware of the extent of damage, these two malware have been able to cause in the recent past and the vulnerability seen, uninstalling those apps which helps the user sense trouble or get the scent of the effects of these apps, will be a wise decision. This process has its own challenges but taking a quick and conscious decision can prevent major disasters ahead. Not just these apps, but researchers have advised on uninstalling any other app, which would have been downloaded from an unknown or unsecured source. These are proven distribution channels for malware and the risk of using them is always huge. Both of these attack campaigns use a methodology of exploiting the mobile app development supply chain in order to infect devices and perform their malicious actions. Researchers have also advised on installing a fool proof security solution and install apps from secured app stores only.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do developers identify malware in a given application?

Malware can be predicted in many ways.  Prominently seen instances are slow pace of the computers, Automatic opening and closing of computers, Suspicious hard drive activity and lack of storage space. Deleting these malware files immediately will be the best step advised to developers.

How challenging have been the new malware detected?

The new malware have been extremely challenging. Malware Simbad and Operation Sheep were designed to create large scale damages to critical software data by either stealing client data of exposing unsecured data to various other malware too. Over 250 million downloads were affected with the induction of these malware into the system, which was later addressed by Google.

If you want to build secure android apps for your business then hire android developers who has minimum of 5 years with the various business verticals

About the author

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Mohamed Sathik Ali S

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